- U.S. corn farmers still have time to file their cases against Syngenta
- The proper settlement value of these cases is not likely to be determined before the parties try a series of test cases, or bellwether cases, to set the settlement value of these cases
- Even after these bellwether cases are tried, it still will be in Syngenta’s best interest to wait until the statutes of limitation in major corn producing states have expired
- It will likely be deep into 2017 before the settlement pressure is intense enough to cause Syngenta to attempt to settle these cases across the U.S.
U.S. corn farmers must file their cases against Syngenta before their particular state’s statute of limitations distinguishes unfiled claims. Different states have a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6-year statute of limitations. That time period, in most states, begins to run when the farmer knew or should have known of his potential claim. While the appropriate date when the statute began to run will be litigated, and the details of the same should be determined by discussing the issue with local lawyers, it is sufficient to say here that U.S. corn farmers still have time to file their cases against Syngenta.
The cases are not likely to settle until the parties can agree on an appropriate value for them. This requires the parties to determine first whether Syngenta’s actions caused damages to the farmers, and second, to determine how much of that damage Syngenta is legally responsible for. This will require the parties to conduct trials in a number of test cases, or bellwether cases. The bellwether process is a mechanism whereby the parties can try a handful of cases in an effort to get a snapshot of what juries think about the liability and damages claims put forth by the plaintiffs. In mass tort cases involving thousands of plaintiffs’ claims, it is usually necessary to try a number of bellwether cases first – so that the parties have a basis to ascertain the settlement value of the individual cases. With discovery needed to get the liability cases ready for trial, and with experts needed to opine about the damages caused, it is likely that trials will not begin until deep into 2016 or early 2017.
Even after these bellwether cases are tried, it still will be in Syngenta’s best interest to wait until the statute of limitations in major corn producing states have expired. There are over 440,000 corn farmers in the United States, growing corn on more than 88 million acres of farmland. Every statute of limitations that expires means that Syngenta will not have to pay the farmers who have failed to timely file their claims. Consequently, defendants in major mass tort litigations typically wait until the statute of limitations in major states have expired so that they may put a fence around their total liability, and better ascertain what a particular settlement offer will cost the company in total. Consequently, it will likely be at least well into 2017 before the settlement pressure is intense enough to cause Syngenta to attempt to settle these cases across the United States.
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.