Minnesota Judge Transfers Decision on Subpoena to Kansas MDL Case

Judge Eric C. Tostrud in a District of Minnesota Opinion and Order filed on Oct. 9 granted Syngentia’s request to move a motion from the plaintiffs to quash a subpoena, moving the issue to the District of Kansas where a multidistrict litigation (MDL) consolidated matter entitled In re Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation is being considered. The MDL consists of cases against Syngenta alleging it’s actions harmed corn profits. 

According to the Order, thousands of lawsuits were brought against Syngenta and consolidated in the District of Kansas. The litigation currently includes hundreds of lawsuits from companies in the American corn industry, particularly farmers. The lawsuits explain that China has rejected corn imports from the United States because this alleged genetically modified corn was intermingled with other corn imports. 

Syngenta reportedly served a subpoena on Randal Giroux, the movant in the Minnesota case. Giroux was not a party in the MDL case, but was designated by The DeLong Company, Inc., a plaintiff in the litigation, as a “non-retained expert witness” when the plaintiff sought to introduce an earlier disposition from him. Syngenta opposed DeLong’s claim that it did not have authority to ask Giroux to attend for a disposition, saying it should have the ability to depose the witness regarding opinions in DeLong’s case and sent a subpoena to the Cargill employee. 

Giroux reportedly filed the motion to quash the subpoena, which the defendant opposed and further asked the judge to transfer the dispute so that a judge assigned to the consolidated case could make a ruling. The judge determined that “exceptional circumstances warrant transferring Giroux’s motion” to the District of Kansas and decided not to rule on the motion. 

The movant is a Vice President at Cargill Inc. and, according to the order, he has worked at Cargill for 20 years. Cargill sued Syngenta in 2014 for the same actions as the cases in the consolidated matter, alleging that the defendant “harmed the American agricultural market by prematurely commercializing a type of genetically modified corn seed before it was approved for import by China.” Giroux reportedly was deposed as a representative of Cargill six times during discovery in the lawsuit filed by the company between 2016 and 2017. 

The Minnesota judge decided that a ruling on the motion to quash the subpoena “could disrupt the MDL Court’s management of the DeLong case itself,” and ruled to transfer the motion, as Syngenta requested. 

Syngenta is represented by Kirkland & Ellis and Maslon. Giroux is represented by Greene Espel PLLP.