A US$1.51 billion settlement has been reached in the nationwide class action lawsuit filed in a Kansas federal court over Syngenta's genetically modified corn seed. It is believed to be the largest agricultural litigation settlement in U.S. history.
The settlement covers all U.S. corn producers — farmers and crop share landlords, as well as grain handling facilities and ethanol plants — nationwide who sold corn priced after September 15, 2013.
A motion for preliminary approval has been filed. The settlement must be approved by U.S. District Judge John W. Lungstrum, in the District of Kansas.
The litigation has been led by four lawyers who were appointed co-lead and class counsel by the court — William Chaney of Gray Reed & McGraw LLP; Patrick Stueve of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP; Don Downing of Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C.; and Scott Powell of Hare Wynn Newell & Newton.
“We are very pleased with this outcome. America's corn farmers and related businesses were hurt economically, and this settlement will provide fair compensation for their damages. It is an equitable result for all involved,” said the four co-lead counsel in a statement.
All corn growers, grain handling facilities and ethanol plants across the country — as defined in the settlement and who choose to stay in the settlement — are covered by this settlement, including any U.S. farmers who opted out of previous Syngenta litigation.
However, all class members must submit a claim form to receive settlement funds.
If preliminarily approved, the settlement terms and claims process information will be set forth in notices mailed to class members and published in various media outlets across the country, as well as in a settlement website. Members of the class then will have a period of time to submit a claim form, opt out of the settlement or object to the terms of the agreement.
Lungstrum then will decide on whether to finally approve the US$1.51 billion settlement. If the settlement is ultimately approved, it is anticipated that funds could be distributed to class members in the first half of 2019. Lungstrum certified the nationwide class action lawsuit in September 2016.
Eight state class action lawsuits were also certified in the multi-district litigation. The four co-lead plaintiff's counsel in the nationwide class action lawsuit also represented more than 7,000 Kansas farmers in the first and only state class action lawsuit to be tried to a verdict. In June 2017, a Kansas jury returned a US$217.7 million verdict in favor of the Kansas grown growers.
These farmers, as well as all corn farmers nationwide, will be covered under this class action settlement and must submit a claim form to receive compensation.