Class Action News

Syngenta Class Members Say Suit Against Counsel Wrongly Nixed

March 28, 2019, 7:25 PM

A group of farmers who will collect from the $1.5 billion settlement resolving claims Syngenta AG carelessly marketed its genetically modified corn seed want to revive the claims against their attorneys.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas dismissed their claims March 1, holding the farmers weren’t injured when their firm, Watts Guerra LLP, excluded them from the Syngenta class action.

The farmers were included in the eventual settlement class and therefore will recover as much as other class members, the court said.

The group asked the court March 27 to vacate its dismissal order to put “an end to the mischaracterization of their claims” and for “an opportunity to proceed on the merits with discovery and class certification.”

The farmers argue they were injured when Watts Guera deceptively solicited them to sign 40 percent contingent fee contracts and wrongfully excluded them from the class action proceedings through a breach of fiduciary obligations and unethical conduct, they say.

They also want their case sent back to the District of Minnesota, where it was originally filed. The multidistrict litigation panel wrongly moved the suit to the Syngenta MDL court, they say.

“Farmers are entitled to proceed independent of the Syngenta MDL litigation with their claims of racketeering, deceit and a breach of fiduciary obligations in their chosen forum,” they argue.

Six sets of corn growers formerly represented in the Syngenta case by Watts Guerra and associated counsel brought this spin-off class action alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and other laws on behalf of 60,000 farmers who signed retainer agreements with the firms.

Douglas J. Nill in Minneapolis represents the farmers.

Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons LLP represents Watts Guerra.

The case is Kellogg v. Watts Guera LLP, D. Kan., No. 18-2408, motion to vacate dismissal 3/27/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at pcooper@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

To read more articles log in. To learn more about a subscription click here.