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City of Greenville, et al v. Syngenta Crop Protection

October 27, 2011

CITY OF GREENVILLE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SYNGENTA CROP PROTECTION, INC., ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore, U.S. Magistrate Judge:

E-FILED Thursday, 27 October, 2011 09:22:50 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Motions to Quash Subpoena brought by non-parties Chemical Industry Council of Illinois (CICI) (Case No. 11-mc-10), Illinois Agricultural Association a/k/a Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) and Philip Nelson (IFB) (Case No. 11-mc-1031), and the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA) (Case No. 10-mc-1032) (collectively the Movants). Motion to Quash or in the Alternative for a Protective Order and Objections to the Subpoena to Produce Documents, Information, or Objects or to Permit Inspection of Premises in a Civil Action and to Testify at a Deposition in a Civil Case (Case No. 11-10 d/e1) (CICI Motion); Third Party Subpoena Respondents Illinois Farm Bureau and Philip Nelson's Motion to Quash Subpoena to Produce Documents or in the Alternative for a Protective Order (Case No. 11-1031 d/e 1) and Third Party Subpoena Respondents Illinois Farm Bureau and Philip Nelson's Motion to quash Subpoena for Deposition and Deposition Notice or in the Alternative for a Protective Order (Case No. 11-1031 d/e 3) (the two Motion are collectively referred to as the IFB Motions)); and Motion to Quash or in the Alternative for a Protective Order and Objections to the Subpoena to Produce Documents, Information, or Objects or to Permit Inspection of Premises in a Civil Action and to Testify at a Deposition in a Civil Action (Case No. 11-1032 d/e 1) (IFCA Motion). For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are ALLOWED.

BACKGROUND

The City of Greenville, Illinois, and numerous other municipalities and public water suppliers (the Plaintiffs) have brought an action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois against Defendants Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, f/k/a Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., and Syngenta AG (collectively Syngenta) seeking damages allegedly caused by the Defendants' product Atrazine. CICI Motion, Exhibit 2, City of Greenville, et al., v. Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., et al., S.D. IL. Case No. 10-188, First Amended Complaint (Complaint). The Plaintiffs allege that Syngenta manufactures and distributes Atrazine. Atrazine is a herbicide used in agriculture. Atrazine is one of a group of herbicides called triazenes. Syngenta introduced Atrazine to farmers in the United States in 1959 and has marketed Atrazine in the United States thereafter. Complaint, ¶ 33-34. The Plaintiffs allege that Atrazine pollutes streams and ground water, and the Plaintiffs suffer damage because they must pay the cost to remove Atrazine during the water treatment process. The Plaintiffs allege claims for trespass, public nuisance, products liability, and negligence. Id. Counts I, II, III, and IV. The Plaintiffs seek punitive damages because they allege that Syngenta's conduct was willful, wanton, and malicious. Id. ¶¶ 55, 57, 64, 66, 74, 76, 82. The Plaintiffs also seek class status for all public water providers located in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Id. ¶ 42.

Movants CICI, IFB, and IFCA (the Associations) are associations of farmers, businesses, and interested individuals involved in the agriculture industry. The Associations all engage in lobbying and other advocacy on behalf of their members. Nelson is the President of IFB. Syngenta is a member of CICI, IFCA, and IFB. Defendant Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC's Reply to Plaintiffs' Opposition to Third Party Subpoena Recipient Chemical Industry Council of Illinois' Motion to Quash (Case No. 11-10 d/e 8) (Syngenta CICI Reply), at 1; Defendant Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC's Reply to Plaintiffs' Opposition to Third Party Subpoena Recipient Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association's Motion to Quash or in the Alternative for a Protective Order (Case No. 11-1032 d/e 9) (Syngenta IFCA Reply), at 1; Defendant Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC's Reply in Support of Third Party Subpoena Recipient Illinois Farm Bureau and Philip Nelson's Motion to Quash Subpoena to Produce Documents or in the Alternative for a Protective Order (Case No. 11-1031 d/e 13) (Syngenta IFB Reply), at 1.

The Plaintiffs served the Movants with identical subpoenas. The subpoenas commanded the presence of the head of each Association to testify at depositions and also commanded the production of the following documents:

1. All documents and electronically-stored information regarding atrazine sent to or received from Syngenta or anyone acting on behalf of Syngenta.

2. All other documents and electronically-stored information regarding Atrazine.

3. All other documents and electronically-stored information regarding Syngenta.

4. All documents and electronically-stored information regarding any payment, compensation, contribution, gift, honorarium or other thing of monetary value received from Syngenta.

5. All documents and electronically-stored information regarding the Triazine Network, the Kansas Corn Growers Association, the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association, or Crop Life America.

CICI Motion, Exhibit 1, Subpoena, Exhibit A.

The Movants seek to quash the subpoenas. The Movants argue that the subpoenas are overly broad and unduly burdensome. The Movants also argue that the subpoenas violate the First Amendment rights of the Association' s members. Syngenta supports the Movants' request to quash the subpoenas. The Plaintiffs ask the Court to deny the Motions. Nelson moves separately to quash the deposition subpoena served on him.

A similar action has been filed in state court in Madison County, Illinois. Holiday Shores Sanitary District v. Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. et al., Madison County, Illinois, Circuit Court No. 2004-L-000710 (State Court Action). The Plaintiffs in the State Court Action served similar subpoenas on the Associations, and the Associations filed similar motions to quash. The Illinois Circuit Judge in the State Court Action denied the motions in part. Syngenta sought review of this ruling. The Appellate Court denied the request for interlocutory review. Syngenta filed a petition for leave to appeal (PLA) before the Illinois Supreme Court. This Court stayed consideration of the Motions until the Illinois Supreme Court ruled on the PLA. The Illinois Supreme Court ...


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