Kansas City (federal court cases)
Minnesota (state court cases)
- The United States has state courts, primarily responsible for lawsuits filed between citizens of the same state, or lawsuits filed by out-of-state plaintiffs against an in-state Defendant. The United States also has federal courts, primarily responsible for lawsuits filed between citizens of different states, or involving federal questions.
- Syngenta is based in Minnesota; therefore, any citizen in the United States may file suit against it in the state courts of Minnesota, unless the suit involves a federal question.
- Syngenta has claimed federal question jurisdiction exists due to China’s role in rejecting MIR 162 corn. Specifically, Syngenta has alleged that Plaintiffs have invoked the federal common law of foreign relations, giving rise to federal court jurisdiction. Plaintiffs have sought remand of these cases back to the Minnesota state courts in which they were filed.
State court lawsuits are being consolidated in Minnesota state courts; federal court lawsuits are being handled by a multi-district litigation proceeding in Kansas City, Kansas.
Cases against Syngenta have been filed across the United States, in both state courts and federal courts. The United States has state courts, primarily responsible for lawsuits filed between citizens of the same states, or lawsuits filed by out-of-state plaintiffs against an in-state Defendant. Conversely, the United States also has federal courts, primarily responsible for lawsuits filed between citizens of different states, or those involving federal questions. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed by farmers, landlords, grain elevators and corn exporters, and those suits have been filed in both state courts and federal courts.
Lawsuits filed between citizens of the same states, or lawsuits filed by out-of-state plaintiffs against an in-state Defendant, have jurisdiction in the state courts of the United States. Specifically, because Syngenta’s U.S. entity is based in Minnesota, suits brought by any farmer or grain elevator in the United States against Syngenta may be brought in Minnesota state courts unless such suits involve federal questions.
By contrast, suits filed between citizens of different states in the state where the plaintiff resides, or suits involving federal questions, must be brought in federal court. Pursuant to 1960’s legislation passed by the United States Congress, all federal court cases involving common issues of law and fact may be consolidated by the Joint Panel on Multi-District Litigation, and transferred to a single federal court for pretrial coordination. In this case, all cases in federal court have been consolidated in MDL 2591, before Hon. John W. Lungstrum, United States District Court for the District of Kansas.
Several thousand lawsuits have been filed against Syngenta in the state courts of Minnesota. With respect to those claims filed by Minnesota farmers, such suits have been filed in the counties where such farmers reside, and where Syngenta may be found. With respect to those claims filed by farmers residing in other states, such suits have been filed in Hennepin County, Minnesota, near Minneapolis. Syngenta has removed such suits to federal court, alleging federal question jurisdiction exists by virtue of the federal common law of foreign relations. Syngenta has claimed that federal courts have jurisdiction over such cases because the foreseeability that Plaintiffs must demonstrate to win requires a court to evaluate whether or not China’s conduct in refusing to accept MIR 162 was illegal. Plaintiffs disagree, and respond that China’s conduct has nothing to do with the allegations they have made against Syngenta; rather, it was Syngenta’s own decisions in marketing MIR 162 that resulted in Plaintiffs’ damages.
If the cases end up in federal court, they will be consolidated and litigated before Judge Lungstrum in Kansas City, Kansas. By contrast, if Judge Lungstrum decides that the thousands of cases filed against Syngenta in Minnesota state courts do not involve a federal question, they will be remanded back to Minnesota state courts. It is then expected that such cases will be consolidated by the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court for purposes of pretrial discovery and coordination, before such cases are separately tried in the counties in which they were filed.
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.