Claiming the class action lawsuit over its Viptera brand is built on “fundamental errors,” Syngenta filed an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling allowing the class-action litigation to proceed. The class action lawsuit filed on behalf of thousands of U.S. corn farmers seeks up to $5 billion from Syngenta for loss of income stemming from marketing MIR162 (Agrisure Viptera) prior to Chinese approval.
“We lost the Chinese market due to Syngenta’s conduct, so producers today are getting less [money] than they would,” says Don Downing, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs claim China's rejection of U.S. corn with the then-unapproved Viptera trait in 2013 led to an interruption in trade with China and affected commodity prices, causing economic damages to farmers and others affected by the markets. Plaintiff lawyers say damages could be as high as $5 to $7 billion by 2018.
Syngenta gave its own description of the chain of events in its latest court filing:
More than two years [after Syngenta started selling Viptera to U.S. farmers], in November 2013, the largest corn crop in 50 years was being harvested and U.S. corn prices had fallen by over 30% since July. China then began rejecting U.S. corn supposedly due to the alleged presence of Viptera and, according to the complaint, embargoed U.S. corn. Tens of thousands of plaintiffs sued Syngenta, alleging that China’s actions hurt U.S. corn prices. The litigation now involves cases in this [multi-district litigation program] as well as suits by tens of thousands of plaintiffs in Minnesota state court and more than three thousand plaintiffs in state and federal courts in Illinois.There is no claim that Viptera is unsafe or defective, or that it caused any physical harm. Instead, Plaintiffs seek up to $7.02 billion in damages for an alleged price drop supposedly caused by educed Chinese demand.
“Syngenta strongly believes that class certification is inappropriate in this case, particularly given the widely varying ways in which farmers grow and sell corn in different markets across the U.S. Syngenta firmly believes that the Viptera China lawsuits lack merit and that Agrisure Viptera was commercialized in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements,” the company said in a statement to AgWeb.
“Review is warranted here to provide guidance on unsettled questions that are both ‘significant to the case at hand, as well as to class action cases generally,’ and to avoid forcing Syngenta into at least nine class trials based on ‘manifestly erroneous’ rulings,” Syngenta asserts in appeal documents.
To read more from the appeal and learn what Syngenta calls ‘fundamental errors’ click here.