Updated March 14, 2018
Corn growers: Do you have your claim forms ready?
A $1.51 billion settlement has been reached in the nationwide class action lawsuit filed in Kansas federal court over Syngenta's genetically modified Viptera corn seed. It is believed to be the largest agricultural litigation settlement in U.S. history.
The settlement was first announced in September, but the details weren’t made public until the March 12 filing.
A motion for preliminary approval has been filed. The settlement must be approved by the Honorable John W. Lungstrum, a United States District Judge for the District of Kansas.
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.
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.
Who is covered under this Syngenta Corn Class Action Settlement?
All corn growers, grain handling facilities and ethanol plants across the country who sold corn priced after Sept. 15, 2013 – 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. This settlement covers producers who sold corn in crop years 2013-14 through 2017-18.
However, all class members must submit a claim form to receive settlement funds.
According to Reuters, Cargill is not part of this settlement as it is pursuing separate claims and ADM reached a separate settlement in February.
Who are the lawyers leading this case?
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.
"We are very pleased with this outcome,” said the four co-lead counsel in a media statement. “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."
Another firm weighs in
“We must assess the settlement and decide for our clients if accepting the class action settlement, or opting out of the class, is best,” said David Domina, of Domina Law Group, which represents more than 1,000 farmer clients. “The answer may be both, but for different producers. We will work on the details and be in contact with our client as details work to the surface.
“On behalf of our many clients across the country we are pleased that settlement is closer to a reality and we are continuing to advocate that the division of settlement funds is fair between irrigated and non-irrigated corn producers on a per bushel basis,” Domina said. “This is the only fair way to compensate farmers for their actual losses and is easy to calculate.”
The Syngenta GMO corn seed litigation
Judge Lungstrum certified the nationwide class action lawsuit in September 2016.
Eight state class action lawsuits were also certified in the multi-district 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.
For more information, visit http://www.syngentacornlitigation.com/
Source: Hare Wynn Newell & Newton, LLP, Domina Law Group