Will my private information provided for this GMO corn lawsuit be kept completely confidential?

Answer: “Yes.”

  • During litigation, personal and financial information is frequently exchanged between litigants. However, there are very specific rules and procedures in place to ensure that such information remains completely confidential
  • Professional Rules of Legal Conduct require that any information shared with your lawyers shall remain strictly confidential. This is known as “the attorney-client privilege”
  • Courts enter protective orders, requiring that information exchanged between the parties in litigation, shall remain strictly confidential, and shall not be shared with third parties
  • Finally, both court orders and settlement agreements typically require the litigating parties to either return or destroy all copies of confidential information exchanged. This ensures absolute confidentiality of your private information and financial documents

A plaintiff in litigation bears the burden of proof. This burden exists with respect to liability – we must prove that Syngenta was at fault, and with respect to damages – we must prove that its conduct caused the Plaintiff’s claimed damages. Before trial, personal and financial information is exchanged between litigants during the discovery phase. In the lawsuit against Syngenta, it is anticipated the farmers will have to collect and product crop insurance application forms, grain elevator summary reports and FSA Forms 578, for crop years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. This information contains personal financial information that should not be allowed into the public sphere.

Moreover, there are very specific rules and procedures in place to ensure that private and financial information remains completely confidential. First, the Professional Rules of Legal Conduct require that any information shared with your lawyers shall remain strictly confidential. This is known as “the attorney-client privilege.” Whatever you tell your lawyers, and whatever documents you provide them, is required to be kept in strict confidence. Accordingly, we will keep what you tell us private, and we will protect the strict confidentiality of your financial documents.

With respect to documents provided in discovery to Syngenta, those documents shall remain confidential as well. Courts enter protective orders, requiring that information exchanged between the parties in litigation, shall remain strictly confidential, and shall not be shared with third parties. Both sides are required to adhere to these court orders. These court orders successfully achieve confidentiality of both sides’ private information, even though such documentation, often in massive quantities, routinely is exchanged during the litigation process.

It is anticipated that tens of thousands, perhaps more than 100,000 farmers and grain elevators, will file suit against Syngenta here. Courts cannot try that many cases. As such, they likely will tell the Plaintiffs and Syngenta that they intend to try only 5-10 test cases, or “bellwether cases.” When cases are tried, they are tried in public courts. Evidence introduced in public cases becomes part of the public record. While some courts will enter orders to maintain the confidentiality of personal, and financial, information introduced at trial, others take the position that what happens in a public trial is part of the public record. For the 5-10 out of 100,000 farmers who will file suit against Syngenta and see their case selected for trial, there is a risk that their information will become part of the public record. However, for 99.99% of the farmers whose cases are not likely to ever be tried, there is no such risk whatsoever.

Finally, both court orders and settlement agreements typically require the litigating parties to either return or destroy all copies of confidential information exchanged. This ensures absolute confidentiality of your private information and financial documents.

Thus, the answer to the question, “Will my private information provided for this lawsuit be kept completely confidential?” is “Yes.”

Written by*:
Mikal C. Watts
WATTS GUERRA, LLP
Four Dominion Drive, Bldg. Three, Suite 100
San Antonio, Texas 78257
* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the GMO corn lawsuit, and should not be received as legal advice. Legal advice is only given to persons or entities with whom Watts Guerra LLP has established an attorney-client relationship. If you have another lawyer in the GMO Corn lawsuit, you should consult with your own attorney, and rely upon his or her advice, rather than the information contained herein.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*