In late June, four law firms secured a $217.7 million verdict on behalf of Kansas corn producers in a multidistrict litigation that involves international, commercial and agricultural law. The plaintiffs of the class action, Five Star Farms et al v. Syngenta AG et al, No. 2:14-cv-02571, are U.S. corn growers who claimed that strains of genetically-modified corn imported from Switzerland-based Syngenta led to a major economic loss.

According to the lawsuit, the loss largely refers to the Chinese market. China, a major importer of U.S. corn, began refusing all shipments of U.S. corn in 2013 after a genetic trait found in Viptera – MIR162 – was detected in shipments from the United States. Those shipments contained corn affected by Syngenta’s strain. The genetic trait at the time was not approved in China. With the loss of the Chinese market, corn growers in Kansas and across the United States saw the price of corn plummet and suffered long-lasting economic damage.

After a half-day of deliberation, the Kansas jury sided with these producers and found Syngenta negligent. More than 7,000 Kansas corn growers, were represented in the lawsuit by four Kansas corn producer plaintiffs. The lawyers for the plaintiffs were: Don Downing of Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C.; Scott Powell of Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton; Patrick Stueve of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP; and William Chaney of Gray Reed & McGraw LLP.

The four co-lead counsel issued a statement: “The verdict is great news for corn farmers in Kansas and corn growers throughout the country who were seriously hurt by Syngenta’s actions. This is only the beginning. We look forward to pursuing justice for thousands more corn farmers in the months ahead.”

This is the first of eight multidistrict litigations in the matter. The other lawsuits involve Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota corn producers. Numerous other state class action lawsuits in this matter are awaiting certification.

According to information provided by the plaintiffs’ lawyers, losses to U.S. corn growers due to the loss of the Chinese market are estimated to exceed $5 billion.

Visit Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton LLP for more information.