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Syngenta Settles Nationwide Class Action Lawsuit for $1.51 Billion

Law Firm Believes it to Be the Largest Agricultural Litigation Settlement in U.S. History.

A $1.51 billion settlement has been reached in the nationwide class-action lawsuit filed in Kansas federal court over Syngenta’s genetically modified seed. 

 It is believed to be the largest agricultural litigation settlement in U.S. history, according to a news release sent out by the law firm Gray Reed & McGraw. The settlement covers all U.S. corn producers – farmers and crop-share landlords – as well as grain-handling facilities and ethanol plants nationwide who sold corn priced after September 15, 2013.

A motion for preliminary approval has been filed. The settlement must be approved by the Honorable John W. Lungstrum, a U.S. District Judge for the District of Kansas.

The litigation has been led by four lawyers who were appointed co-lead and class counsel by the court: William Chaney of Gray Reed & McGraw LLP, Patrick Stueve of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP, Don Downing of Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., and Scott Powell of Hare Wynn Newell & Newton.

Case Details
Legal action started due to Syngetna’s selling genetically modified strains of its corn seed to the U.S. market prior to China approving them. China, a major importer of U.S. corn, began refusing all shipments of U.S. corn in 2013 after a genetic trait found in Viptera – MIR162 – was detected in shipments from the U.S. The genetic trait at the time was not approved in China. With the loss of the Chinese market, corn growers in Kansas and across the U.S. saw the price of corn plummet and suffered long-lasting economic damage, according to a news release from Gray Reed & McGraw. However, Syngenta officials contended U.S. corn responded to a change in the supply and demand situation, and not the Chinese situation.

The four co-lead counsel issued a statement: “We are very pleased with this outcome. America’s corn farmers and related businesses were hurt economically, and this settlement will provide fair compensation for their damages. It is an equitable result for all involved.”

The news release says all corn growers, grain-handling facilities, and ethanol plants across the country – as defined in the settlement and who choose to stay in the settlement – are covered by this settlement, including any U.S. farmers who opted out of previous Syngenta litigation.

However, all class members must submit a claim form to receive settlement funds. 

Next Steps
 If preliminarily approved, the settlement terms and claims process information will be set forth in notices mailed to class members and published in various media outlets across the country, as well as in a settlement website, according to the news release. 

Members of the class then will have a period of time to submit a claim form, opt out of the settlement, or object to the terms of the agreement.

Judge Lungstrum then will decide on whether to finally approve the $1.51 billion settlement. If the settlement is ultimately approved, it is anticipated that funds could be distributed to class members in the first half of 2019. Judge Lungstrum certified the nationwide class-action lawsuit in September 2016. 
Eight state class-action lawsuits were also certified in the multidistrict litigation. The four co-lead plaintiff’s counsel in the nationwide class-action lawsuit also represented more than 7,000 Kansas farmers in the first and only state class-action lawsuit to be tried to a verdict. In June 2017, a Kansas jury returned a $217.7 million verdict in favor of the Kansas grown growers. These farmers, as well as all corn farmers nationwide, will be covered under this class-action settlement and must submit a claim form to receive compensation, according to the news release. 
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