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SYNGENTA AG: Loses Bid to Dismiss Suit Over GMO Corn Trait

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Judge David R. Herndon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois denied Sygenta AG’s motion to dismiss and request for oral argument in the case titled IN RE SYNGENTA MASS TORT ACTIONS, This Document Relates to Poletti, et al. v. Syngenta AG, et al, No. 3:15-cv-01121-DRH (S.D. Ill.)

Agrisure VIPTERA(TM) and its variant DURACADE(TM) were licensed and marketed by Syngenta and, both products contained multiple genetically enhanced modified traits and were sold to seed manufactures for their insect resistance capabilities.  At the time, MIR162 was barred for sale in several countries, including China where it was not yet approved for purchase or consumption.

In March 2016, Roland Poletti, et al., filed their First Consolidated and Amended Complaint against Syngenta, under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(d). The Plaintiffs alleged that Syngenta prematurely commercialized the genetically modified corn trait MIR162, under the trade name Agrisure VIPTERA(TM), and in doing so, acted negligently,
recklessly, and deceptively, causing harm to the plaintiffs and contaminating the entire United States corn supply.  The Plaintiffs further contended that at the time of the alleged acts,
Syngenta knew of and foresaw the risk to the plaintiffs, and thereby breached the duty owed in preventing the harm alleged. The Plaintiffs note that United States exportation of corn amounts to billions of dollars annually, and because the U.S. corn marketing system is commodity-based, the highest standards of purity are required to be maintained.  Moreover, the plaintiffs point to the premature release of Agrisure VIPTERA(TM) as the sole cause of foreign export-market refusal to import U.S. grown corn, and further maintain that heavy financial losses have been incurred.

The Plaintiffs assert claims against Syngenta of public nuisance, private nuisance, negligence, products liability, tortious interference with business actions, strict liability as to certain
classes of plaintiffs, and the violation of various state deceptive trade practices and consumer protection acts. Causes of action for damages include the premature release of VIPTERA(TM) and DURACADE(TM) into the U.S. corn and corn seed supply, the materially misleading statements made relating to approval status of MIR162 in China upon which the plaintiffs relied, the failure to disclose the material fact that MIR162 was not approved for import into China, and the continuing and future MIR162 contamination of the U.S. corn and seed supply. The Plaintiffs seek compensatory, consequential, and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

Syngenta filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted. In its memorandum in support, Syngenta discusses several legal principals which it believes warrants a grant of dismissal. Namely, non-Illinois plaintiffs’ lack of personal jurisdiction; and, the bar of plaintiffs’ claims by the “Stranger” and “Contractual” Economic Loss Doctrines.

Judge Herndon denied Syngenta’s motion to dismiss and request for oral argument, finding that the complaint has sufficiently alleged claims against Syngenta that survive both Rule 12(b (2) and Rule 12(b)(6) Fed. R. Civ. P. pleading standards.

A copy of Judge Herndon’s memorandum and order dated February 20, 2017, is available at https://goo.gl/qAlImn from Leagle.com.

Ellen K. Reisman, Special Master, Pro Se

All Plaintiffs in Case 15-1221, Plaintiff, represented by William
W. Blair — James G. Onder — Michael J. Quillin — at Onder, Shelton et al; Brian Leighton Kinsley; Crumley Roberts; Amanda Scott Williamson — Christopher B. Hood — Mark Ekonen — Taylor Christopher Bartlett — W. Lewis Garrison, Jr. — William L. Bross — at Heninger, Garrison et al.; Brian E. Jorde — David Alan Domina — at Domina law Group, PC LLO; Peter H. Burke — William Todd Harvey — at Burke Harvey LLC

Defendants, represented by Michael J. Nester — at Donovan Rose Nester PC; Edwin John U — Jordan M. Heinz — Michael D. Jones — Patrick F. Philbin — Ragan Naresh — at Kirkland & Ellis