In May of 2015, I authored a post on this site concerning the Jacobsen Orr firm’s position about the effort to sign up our clients who are corn producers, ethanol plants and grain elevators as plaintiffs in a massive set of lawsuits against Syngenta, the company that sold seed corn to producers containing the “Viptera” and “Duracade” insect-resistant genetic traits. (See, BLOG: Why Are We Not Holding Meetings to Sign-Up Corn Farmers to Sue Syngenta?). In that post, our position was that we had decided not to participate for various reasons that we believe are still valid under those circumstances that existed in 2015.
Nonetheless, the cases against Syngenta progressed and there has been a class action settlement fund created totaling $1,510,000,000. Out of this settlement fund, eligible corn producers, grain handling facilities and ethanol production facilities are entitled to make a claim, each sub-class of claimant sharing in a different portion of the overall fund. This claim can now be made without the need to have otherwise made a claim or participated in any lawsuit against Syngenta. Anyone in each class who qualifies is entitled to make a claim against the fund as long as they have made a claim by preparing a claim form provided by the court before the deadline of October 12, 2018.
The rules determining who may make a claim, how the claim is treated and the deadlines for participation are complicated. We refer you to the FAQ document of May 11, 2018 from the settlement website for these details and urge you to consult the Corn Seed Settlement Website link in the FAQ. You should also seriously consider whether you need assistance from your local legal counsel in making the claim.
There are a number of permutations to the filing discussed in the FAQ concerning claims of landlords in addition to corn producers, and the distinctions between those who did and those who did not purchase/plant the Syngenta seeds with the subject traits. Of the total class settlement, $22.6 million is set aside for corn producers who purchased/planted the Syngenta Viptera and Duracade seeds and the remaining amount (net of fees and expenses) of $1.4 billion is dedicated to corn producers who didn't plant the seeds with the subject genetic traits.
Similarly, other specific amounts of the total settlement are set aside for ethanol production facilities and grain handling facilities. These sub-classes also have a number of conditions that have to be met in order to make a successful claim.
Given that the case has been settled, there is a finite amount of settlement proceeds for each class of claimant that are now set to be distributed (net of costs and class counsel fees, which could be substantial) sometime later this year or next. Since the settlement amount is now determined, some of the other objections and risks that we discussed in our earlier post would seem to be mitigated. In my discussions with our corn producer clients, one view of the situation seems to be shared: “Regardless of how you feel about the merits of the claim against Syngenta, you will no doubt share in the cost of this settlement when you buy seeds from Syngenta, so you might as well get something for it.”
In some cases, the effort may still not justify the potential reward, but we would not discourage you from engaging in filing a claim if you decide to do so. As mentioned earlier, the conditions upon which claims may be granted are somewhat complicated and we would urge you to consult your legal counsel if you have questions.