OMAHA (DTN) — The details of a settlement in the Viptera corn lawsuit likely will not be completed by year’s end as both sides in the three-year-long legal case continue to finalize the agreement, according to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas in Kansas City.
On Wednesday, the court extended an existing stay on a number of lawsuits filed against Syngenta in a number of states to allow the settlement work to be completed.
In September, Syngenta announced a settlement with farmers who sued the company following the release of Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade MIR 162 corn traits. Details of the settlement were not released, but the settlement reportedly was worth about $1.5 billion.
The settlement, which is subject to court approval, would create a settlement fund for the “submission of claims by eligible claimants” who contracted to price corn or corn byproducts after Sept. 15, 2013.
On Wednesday, the court announced a scheduled settlement hearing for Jan. 25, 2018.
As part of a court order issued this week, all deadlines related to a stay in court proceedings were vacated.
“It is further ordered that in the unlikely event that such a trial would become necessary, such as by the mutual rescission of the settlement by all parties, the trial date for the Arkansas and Missouri producer classes is reset for May 14, 2018,” the order said. “All deadlines previously set in document number 3319 for the May 14, 2018, trial of the Illinois and Nebraska producer classes are hereby made the deadlines for the Arkansas and Missouri producer classes trial.”
There was a dispute between the parties as to how to proceed on the settlement with trial dates pending.
According to a joint report filed with the court on Dec. 8, 2017, the producer plaintiffs indicated, “Despite months of settlement discussions, the parties have yet to reach agreement on all material terms for a settlement that would resolve the claims.”
Syngenta said in the report, “The parties have agreed on the substance of the pending settlement (as stated in the term sheet itself) and the matters being discussed relate to issues of settlement implementation and administration that do not justify terminating the existing stay.
“The parties have made substantial progress towards executing a detailed settlement agreement.”
In June, a Kansas City jury awarded farmers $217.7 million in compensatory damages in what was the first lawsuit filed against Syngenta over the shipment of Viptera corn to China. The Kansas trial was one of several on tap. The lawsuit was filed by four Kansas farmers who represent more than 7,000 farmers in the state.
Plaintiffs in the case alleged Syngenta sold corn with Agrisure Viptera and Duracade traits prior to the traits receiving import approvals in several countries, including China. China claims it found and rejected corn shipments containing the traits, which plaintiffs say led to lower corn prices.
The official lawsuits filed on behalf of corn producers include cases in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.