WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2016 – A class-action lawsuit filed by corn growers against Syngenta over corn exports that were rejected by China should go to trial next year, as scheduled, after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to review the lower court’s certification order.
In a five-paragraph order Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the appeals court in Denver said that U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum’s Sept. 26 opinion was “well-researched and reasoned, and, if any rulings are in error, those errors can be addressed on appeal, if necessary.”
Syngenta had petitioned the appeals court to hear arguments challenging Lungstrum’s decision. In September, Lungstrum certified two classes of corn farmers who are seeking damages for lost sales in fall 2013 or later – a nationwide class and eight state classes of farmers in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota. The growers who are members of the class did not use Agrisure Viptera.
In a statement responding to the decision, Syngenta called the appeals court ruling “one step in a long process.”
The “procedural decision ... delays but does not preclude a future review of the decision to have a certain number of Viptera lawsuits proceed as class actions,” the company said. “Syngenta respectfully disagrees with the decision to allow class actions in this litigation, given the widely varying ways in which farmers grow and sell corn in different markets across the U.S. Syngenta firmly believes that the Viptera China lawsuits should be rejected and that Agrisure Viptera was commercialized in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements. We will continue to defend the rights of American farmers to have access to safe, effective, U.S.-approved agricultural technologies like Agrisure Viptera.”
The company also said, “Syngenta R&D is committed to bringing winning innovation into the hands of the growers. To do this successfully we will, with a clear customer focus, define specific Crop Protection and Seeds business strategies, implement simplification initiatives in the territories and ensure the success of the newly established Vegetable Seeds business unit. The internal changes announced will align R&D with cross-functional business priorities while delivering our pipeline and strategic priorities.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyers estimate that U.S. corn producers lost between $5 billion and $7 billion in revenue because China stopped importing U.S. corn when a new genetically modified trait in Agrisure Viptera “contaminated export shipments from the United States,” plaintiffs’ attorneys said in September. “China had not yet approved that corn for import when Syngenta started selling its seed on a widespread basis across the U.S. Those losses were suffered by all corn producers (including crop-share landlords) who marketed corn in the fall of 2013 or later.”
The nationwide class and the Kansas classes are set for trial beginning on June 5, 2017, in Kansas City, Kansas.
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