FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS WE MOST OFTEN RECEIVE FROM FARMERS:
(Disclaimer: These are actual asked questions by farmers of Mr. Shields over the past several months. Mr. Shields’ responses to the farmers are provided. These responses are not to be considered legal advice. They are simply Mr. Shields’ opinions, shared with prospective farmers, in an attempt to give you as much information as possible and to help aid you in making your selection of counsel to represent you and your farm’s interests.)
We know farmers are getting a lot of “information” from various sources, but just keep in mind, in the end everyone is trying to sell you on their individual firm. With this in mind and to answer your questions, based upon my 18 years as a tort lawyer and experience with mass tort claims such as Syngenta, if settled this litigation will almost certainly be resolved Globally. There are simply too many claimants, and Syngenta will want to resolve them all at once, as will the group of plaintiffs’ attorneys. In a Global Settlement, ALL farmers will be paid the same. This is how the rice case was paid several years ago. The difference will come in what specific months you sold your corn, in what region, etc. The disparity in payments will be based upon economic reports, and have nothing to do with what lawyer or firm you are represented by. For example: a farmer in Iowa or Illinois will likely receive more than will a farmer in Oklahoma, who sold in the same period. Why? The farmer in Iowa likely had higher yields per acre, and supply and demand factors would also be considered given the distance between farmers. The lawyers and economists will deal with the disparities, and it’s something the farmers need not necessarily be concerned with. Again, however, whether you are with a lawyer with one client vs a lawyer with several hundred clients, I don’t think in the end it will make a difference what you are paid. And FYI, sometimes the smaller firms process the settlement paper work faster than the larger firms, which nobody gets paid anything until your individual settlement paper work is prepared and submitted. So don’t equate bigger with being better. Does your farm produce the same type and quality of corn as a farmer with say 30,000 acres of production? Do you plant your corn faster, and sometimes harvest your corn faster than a larger farm? Do you all receive the same price at the grain elevators when you go to sell? This should answer your question better than anything I can offer. In your question, you equate larger firms = having more clients, and smaller firms = having less clients. I would not make that assumption. Our firm consists of two experienced litigation attorneys and support staff, and I am confident we will represent more farmers than some firms who may have ten or even twenty attorneys. The number of farmers each firm has really comes more down to how good and skilled they are with their marketing to farmers and corn producers, and convincing farmers to sign with their firm vs another firm. I used to be Of Counsel for a larger Kansas City, Missouri mass torts firm of ten or more attorneys, all of us doing mass tort claims of some sort. In larger firms, all that typically happens is each attorney handles one or more of the firms’ litigations. For example, one attorney will handle all of the Syngenta cases, one attorney may handle drug/pharmaceutical cases, one attorney may handle all the hip/knee implant cases, etc. But in the end, even with a larger firm, you are still dealing primarily with one or two attorneys and their specific staff. Speaking from my own experience, it’s not as if all attorneys in a larger firm all work on Syngenta and nothing else. And, you may be assigned a salaried, less experienced associate attorney through a larger firm (who has no ties to the Midwest), versus being represented by an experienced, Kansas City trial attorney with over 18 years of litigation experience and who has conducted approximately twenty jury trials throughout his career. I have also lived and worked in Kansas City my whole life, and I married a farmer’s daughter from West Point, Nebraska. And most importantly, I own my own firm. I used to associate with a larger mass torts firm, and I spent a lot of my time there focused on preparing to go establish my own practice. So again, don’t equate bigger with being better. Know who you are dealing with, and who will be representing you. I would not focus on the size or number of attorneys in one firm vs another.
In our law firm, we don’t market ourselves in a lot of these types of national cases at once. We are a smaller, boutique mass tort litigation firm. We have been working Syngenta cases full time since January 2015, primarily focused upon getting information to Midwest farmers that they need to know. The majority of our Syngenta clients are and will be from Midwest states such as Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan. We currently represent farmers from all across the Midwest. However, as with most things, be careful about what others may be telling you about how many farmers they currently represent. Why? Farmers have been very hesitant to sign with lawyers in this litigation, due to the historical distrust for lawyers that a lot in the farming community have. So be careful if someone is throwing “sizes of their clients in the thousands” out to you in a pitch to sell you on their firm. Ask to verify their client lists, and don’t be afraid to look into lawyers’ backgrounds. We typically don’t share the size of our client inventories with others, but I’m doing it generally for you because you specifically asked about it. I sell our firm on experience, proximity of location to the Kansas City, Kansas federal court house where this litigation is consolidated on the federal level, our knowledge of mass torts, and our dedication to representing Midwest farmers in this important national litigation against Syngenta AG, at a fair and reasonable price of 30%.
Possibilities of an out of court settlement are very strong. But first let the lawyers do the lawyering. We have very skilled and highly trained lawyers representing farmers in this litigation. We first want to build the best case of liability and damages we can before even discussing settlement with Syngenta. That is to everyone’s interest, as we will get more in a prospective settlement if we build a stronger case of liability first. Example, if we find the “smoking memo” of their CEO telling corporate staff to sell the Viptera now (in 2012), regardless of the consequences on the corn market, such a memo shows Intent and Reckless Disregard to the corn market, and would quite possibly expose Syngenta to punitive damages from a jury hearing the evidence. Companies will typically pay a premium to settle a case against them that involves prospective punitive damages. We the lawyers first need to build the case, however. We already have good evidence of Syngenta’s reckless conduct. (See “In Their Own Words” here). We will gather more before determining the overall strengths and weaknesses of the litigation, and what reasonable settlement positions are for varying groups of plaintiffs, including farmers.
You should sign your claim with the attorney you are most comfortable with. Our law firm is working day and night on Syngenta cases, have been since January 2015, and we are licensed in Kansas and Missouri. Jim and I have been practicing tort law in Kansas City since 1996, and our firm has experience in mass tort claims such as Syngenta. We are representing our farmers on a reduced, 30% contingency fee for the Syngenta case only. We advance all costs of litigation, and we are waiving all our personal costs incurred. If no recovery for you, then no attorney fees or costs are owed. And remember, when you called our office, you mostly likely spoke to an attorney and not an intake employee. You are receiving reply email and follow-up from a licensed attorney, and not a paralegal or legal intern. Just keep all of this in mind when selecting your attorney. We strive to give more of a personal touch to our clients and their cases, including access to our attorneys and not just legal assistants. And no, you pay us no money on the front end. We only get paid if we recover money for you.
The latest estimates on losses caused to farmers by Syngenta’s alleged negligent conduct range anywhere from a low of $.11 cents per bushel, to a high of $2 dollars per bushel (depending on when you sold certain bushels and where). Average losses are roughly $.30 to $.60 per bushel across the market. Your own National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) has estimated losses over Viptera at $2.9 Billion. When you sold your corn in the open grain market, you may have received anywhere from $.11 cents to $2 dollars less per bushel for your grain, caused by the supply shock of China not buying US corn due to the presence of Syngenta’s Viptera. The primary years we are seeking compensation for farmers are 2013, 2014 and 2015. As indicated by the NGFA, Syngenta has now done this again with regard to its next generation Duracade GM seed (releasing without export approval from China), and future estimated losses to farmers over Syngenta’s Duracade (and Viptera) are now estimated at well over $3 Billion US Dollars for the 2015-2016 growing season! China’s export market, which was on a path by 2023 to purchase almost 40% or more of U.S. corn production, is now lost as China has decided to buy its corn from the Ukraine, Argentina and Brazil for the foreseeable future. The long term effects of Syngenta’s actions could be felt for years to come if China is permanently lost as a major export market. We will seek damages on your behalf for all years the corn market ends up impacted by Syngenta’s conduct, past and into the future.
Our law firm is representing farmers on a reduced 30% contingency fee contract, our firm advances the costs of litigation, and we are waiving our own personal expenses in this case specially for Midwest farmers. If there is no recovery for you, then you will owe no attorney fees or case expenses. Damages are now estimated between $.11 cents to $2 dollars per bushel, which we will seek as damages against Syngenta for you as your attorneys. We are not bird dogging your cases for outside law firms. We are experienced in mass action claims such asSyngenta, our office is in the Kansas City area, and we can represent farmers from all states including Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, etc.
There is no fixed “get in” date. All states have applicable statute of limitations, and depending on where you farm and where your production occurred, different statute of limitations will apply. Time is therefore of the essence, as some states such as Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, etc. have shorter statute of limitations for negligence than others. Also, all farmers regardless of state are prosecuting various claims against Syngenta, and some claims have shorter statute of limitations than others. Simply, if you don’t timely file, your individual claims would be legally barred forever. The Court will eventually determine the applicable statute of limitations for each state and for each claim pursued. The rule of thumb is to file earlier rather than later, to make sure you fall in front of any future cut-off date to be determined later on by the Court.
If you remain unsigned with a law firm through the present date, I highly recommend you get yourself contracted with our’s to secure your place in line in the ever evolving Syngenta national corn claim litigation. Statute of limitations do apply, the sooner you file the safer you are, and therefore time is of the essence.
Plaintiffs suing Syngenta range from individual farmers to giant agricultural corporations. Cargill, Inc., the largest closely held company in the United States, sued Syngenta in September 2014. Archer Daniels Midland, the largest corn processor in the world, joined the fray in November 2014. International shippers Trans Coastal Supply Co. and Bunge North America have also filed suit. As well, over 20,000 farmers have now filed individual claims against Syngenta. Numbers are growing daily.
*** Breaking news … Syngenta AG turned down a $45 Billion offer today, May 8, 2015 from Monsanto to purchase the entire Syngenta corporation. FYI, this will likely have NO effect on your claims if Monsanto does eventually end up acquiring Syngenta. But do get contracted. Here is the Reuters link to the news story which broke Friday afternoon, May 8th:
If true it’s sad, but more and more one could assume Syngenta was pushing the envelope to get its Viptera and Duracade traits into the market to show their effectiveness, in preparation for a possible buy out from Monsanto. In 2015, Syngenta’s U.S. seed line-up consists of 51 corn hybrids, 42 of which incorporate the MIR 162 gene trait. It can only be assumed that they did not want to wait on major export market approval back in 2012, simply because it would have meant pushing back the product launch of over 80% of their present U.S. corn hybrids. The corn market gets wrecked along the way, farmers get hurt economically, the Chinese export market is tentatively lost for the foreseeable future, but Syngenta, its CEO and Board we’re quite sure were pleased with a $45 Billion offer on the table for their company. It’s just an assumption one could reach from the facts as now known. Each farmer needs to make his or her own assessment of the situation at hand.
We are not bird dogging or recruiting your cases for outside law firms. We are experienced in mass action claims such as Syngenta, our office is in Kansas City, and we are Kansas and Missouri licensed attorneys. We can represent farmers from all states because this is a national tort action. We handle your case from start to finish, with no middle attorneys involved. Simply, we don’t recruit farmers through referring attorneys. We cut the middle man out and pass the savings onto the farmer by way of a 30% contingency fee contract. We also are waiving all our personal attorney expenses incurred. See our contract for all the details.
Our firm is dedicated to the Syngenta litigation on behalf of farmers and land owners. All of our firm’s time and resources are directed on Syngenta currently, and no other litigations. If and when farmers’ Syngenta claims are settled, we will turn all of our attention promptly to working on processing your paper work to get our farmers paid. Your funds will be deposited temporarily into a Kansas/Missouri licensed attorney’s trust account at a Kansas City bank. Simply, we are local and in the Midwest, we are experienced, we are Kansas/Missouri regulated attorneys, and a majority of the farmers we represent are Midwest based producers from Midwest states such as Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.
Your prospective Syngenta claim is based in tort, and it involves a mass action litigation procedural process which we know and understand. You are all going to be individual plaintiffs. It could also involve a jury trial at some point in time (although most do resolve without trial – and I believe Syngenta will resolve globally). I don’t know about you, but I probably would not want my local divorce or DUI lawyer representing me in a civil tort jury trial, against a billion dollar corporate defendant, if push comes to shove with Syngenta. Not saying the local DUI lawyer can’t do it – maybe just not the smartest thing to have done. Jim and I have over 38 years of combined litigation experience, including over 20 jury trials. I and my firm have handled several thousand tort claims for consumers over the past two decades. And as stated, our firm has prior experience handling mass action, economic loss claims on behalf of large numbers of consumers.
This is my fifth national litigation representing plaintiffs in, and the attorney’s personal expenses are a filing fee with the court, some pro rated expenses for copying, maybe a hotel and air fare now and then, all pro rated out among our over several hundred farm clients. I anticipate our personal expenses will be roughly $1,000 per farmer, give or take, with a share of the economic expert reports being the other significant cost in that estimate. Under our 30% contingency fee contract with our farmers, we are waiving all of our personal attorney expenses incurred prosecuting our farmers’ Syngenta claims.
The other types of expense are referred to as “Common Benefit Expenses”. These are assessed by the Court after being approved by the Judge. Each farmer who will be prospectively paid in this case is assessed with Common Benefit Expenses. They cannot be waived by any attorneys. In the Syngenta MDL, each farmer is prospectively being assessed 3% of their gross recovery, as ordered by Judge Lungstrum, and which will go into a Common Benefit Fund. This Fund helps pay for all the Syngenta depositions, production review of millions of documents, global expert witness fees and reports, etc., which are incurred and paid on behalf of all farmers. So under our 30% attorney fee contract, our clients will eventually pay 3% off the top of their gross recovery (for Common Benefit Expenses which again cannot be waived), then 30% in attorney fees. All said, clients of Midwest Corn Farmer Lawyers will receive 70% of their net recovery, after payment of the 3% Common Benefit Expense assessment ordered by Judge Lungstrum. They will receive 67% or more of their gross payment.
If a firm has offered a 40% contingency fee contract, and agreed to “waive expenses”, I think you are much better off with a 30% attorney fee rate and payment of your own 3% Common Benefit Expense assessment. This is what we are offering to all farmers. It’s simple math: receive 67% of your gross payment with Midwest Corn Farmer Lawyers, or 60% with those other firms. A 7% savings on every $100,000 paid is $7,000 in farmers’ pockets, and not the lawyers’ pockets.
We are doing all Midwest farmers’ cases for 30% attorney fee, and waiver of our non-Common Benefit Expenses. I personally don’t know of a better deal in the market place. However, if there is, I don’t know who you are dealing with. Is it a lawyer with experience in national MDL practice (such as ours), or is it someone just hustling cases from local farmers to ship out of state to lawyers in Texas, Alabama, Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, and so on? Or worse, shipping your case to an out-of-state lawyer they may have just met over the phone! We are local in the Kansas City metropolitan area, the federal court in Kansas City, Kansas is where all federal cases nationally are consolidated, and we office in Olathe and Kansas City (just a few miles away from the courthouse). We are not bird dogging your cases for other firms. When you called and spoke to Jim or I, you spoke to the attorneys you will be with on this litigation, from start to finish. Our firm has experience in mass tort filings, and we do your case ourselves. We presently have hundreds of farmers under contract, and more are signing daily. If and when payments are made, your settlement proceeds will be temporarily deposited into our firm’s UMB Bank branch trust account in Kansas City, and overseen by Missouri and Kansas licensed attorneys. Have a problem? Call Topeka and/or Jeff City and report us. I don’t anticipate problems, but I’ll tell you who to call if you have issues with me or our firm. I’m that open about it because I don’t anticipate any problems with our farmers that we represent.
We will with almost 100% certainty NOT advise our farmers to participate in any putative class action which may be sought by a limited few other law firms. Most farmers are going to contract and file individually, so I don’t see it even being a problem, because all farmers will likely “opt out” of any possible class action certification through their own attorney. But just so you know, in my opinion, after 18 years of litigation tort practice, having worked on two state wide consumer class actions and one national during my career, and having represented several hundred consumers in national MDL mass tort claims, I believe farmers will be much much better off payment wise through individual mass action filings, than with any putative class action resolution. From my experience, class counsel’s judgment can get clouded by the prospects of seven figure attorney fees in a class action. This is why you just recently saw class counsel for former NFL players sent back to negotiate for more money on the injured players’ behalf, after the judge who was asked to approve the settlement believed it was not adequate payment to the players. Why did class counsel for NFL players not know the settlement they negotiated for players was not adequate? Perhaps it was the multi-million dollar attorney fee they were seeking quick approval of by the same judge that was clouding their judgment on the value of the players’ claims.
With individual mass action filings, we as your attorneys are economically incentivized to recover every dime we can for you, because the more we get you and all of our farm clients, the more we earn. Simple as that. If I can squeeze another dollar out of Syngenta’s back pocket, I’m going to do it because our firm makes another $.30 cents in fees. Farmers benefit from individual actions in the end.
We do not use call center, hourly employees to speak with you. If we are on the phone, leave a message and we will call you back. We mail new client paper work out daily to farmers by way of Priority Mail. We also respond routinely to email and fax from our farmer clients.
A bottom barometer reading for this case, on prospective ECONOMIC damages for farmers, is around $.30 to $.60 cents per bushel, for years 2013, 14′ and even into ’15. But we also likely told you to let the lawyers do the lawyering, as we are asserting NEGLIGENT AND INTENTIONAL MISREPRESENTATION CLAIMS against Syngenta for their alleged corporate strategy of recklessly placing the Viptera and now Duracade early without pre-market approval. We believe they likely knew it would bolster the value of both the Viptera and Duracade GM traits in a prospective sale to either Monsanto or some other competitor. If a jury later determines, AFTER HEARING ALL THE EVIDENCE, that Syngenta intentionally or recklessly did these deeds for company profit, AND THAT PROFIT THEN CAME WHEN MONSANTO PAID $45 TO $50 BILLION FOR THEIR COMPANY, I think most common folk sitting on a jury are not going to have a hard time punishing Syngenta, particularly after seeing credible evidence that per bushel corn prices fell abruptly in the first quarter 2014, within months of China banning all US corn shipments in Nov. 2013 due to the presence of Viptera!
Worse, AMERICAN FARMERS’ 2ND LARGEST EXPORT MARKET CHINA (AND IN THE NOT TO DISTANT FUTURE WAS TO BE FARMERS’ BIGGEST EXPORT MARKET), IS NOW LOST !!! Farmers, including my mother and father in-law and my wife’s first cousins in Nebraska, are losing considerable income in 2014 and likely beyond, allegedly because of Syngenta’s actions!
I don’t see a jury valuing this at just $.30, $.40 or even $.50 cents a bushel. After hearing and seeing the evidence, I believe a jury if convinced this is true and happened, is going to see a corporate defendant with $45 to $50 Billion US dollars in their back pocket, a company that wrecked the farm market all out of greed, and a company that cost American farmers’ their primary export market and irreparably damaged their livelihoods. If this is all true, we will ask a jury to punish them accordingly with an award of substantial money damages, and quite possibly punitive damages, to right the wrong caused to farmers.
Let the plaintiff lawyers do the lawyering and take the depositions of Syngenta’s CEO Michael Mack and his underlings, let us review the millions of pages of documents and emails Syngenta has internally, before estimating what the real value of farmers’ claims are. Any farmers’ lawyer who does not see or understand this process or strategy, we don’t want them on our litigation team. Simple as that.
In conclusion, we are local Midwest attorneys, WITH EXPERIENCE IN MDL MASS ACTION FILINGS. This is not our first rodeo. I’m not calling myself a litigation tort lawyer overnight, signing farmers’ cases, and then shipping them out of state to whoever I just met last month over a phone call. I’ve been doing contingency fee based tort litigation in Kansas, Missouri and the Midwest generally for over 18 years, representing consumers and injured folk against big business, big insurance, big banks, etc. In my personal opinion, based upon what I’ve seen and read so far, I believe Syngenta is a bad corporate actor, and I believe this case is about a lot more than just $.30 or $.50 cents a bushel for two years or so. I believe farmers have been irreparably harmed by Syngenta’s actions. And although I assume Syngenta never anticipated that China would ban all US corn shipments over Viptera’s early release, IT DID! Why should farmers bear this loss? Syngenta should, particularly when they have a $45 to $50 Billion treasure trove sitting prospectively in the back of the room and preparing to head back to Europe with it!
Know who you are dealing with, know who is going the extra mile to get you compensated, know who has the experience and training to represent Midwest farmers from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan in this mass action. I’ve tried roughly 20 tort jury trials throughout my career, and I am not afraid to step before a judge, tell him or her that my farmers want their day in Court, that we have developed evidence we believe a jury is going to find appalling, and that we are not happy with the settlement overtures made to date by the corporate bad actor. I don’t want coupons for our farmers to buy future seed at a discounted rate, while plaintiff lawyers ride off in the sunset with a nice tidy attorney fee. I and lawyers who think like me are out to get farmers paid, and send a message to Syngenta along the way: You can sell farmers GM seeds as much as you like and as much as they want to buy, but also give them the courtesy of protecting their export markets on the back end. Pre-release without major market approval and your GM trait gets denied, you’re getting sued when American farmers suffer losses. Continue with the industry practice of pre-market approval, or else farmers will team up and have their day in court to recoup the Billions in losses farmers suffer when industry practice is violated.
You simply need to click on one of the above internet links, the 30% Contract will appear on your screen in an electronic format, type in the information asked for in the boxes, estimate your acres if needed, type in your name and agree that it is your electronic signature, then hit SUBMIT and you are contracted with the Shields Law Group, LLC out of Kansas City for 30%. We will work with you to produce your actual production records at a later date in line with the orders of the court, after your Harvest is complete.
Shields Law Group, LLC (816) 421-0800 Kansas City Metro
“Midwest Lawyers representing the interests of Midwest Farmers”
– Farmers from all across the Midwest are now contracted with the Shields Law Group, LLC.
– We are licensed in Kansas and Missouri, we live in Kansas City, and our primary office is in Olathe and Kansas City, KS. We can represent farmers from any state in this national MDL litigation.
– We contract farmers at a low 30% contingency attorney fee, we advance all costs of litigation, and we also waive our personal incurred costs as part of our contract .
– We guarantee the farmer will receive 70% of all future net payments made to farmer off any settlement.
– Your payments will be held in a Kansas City bank, in a Midwest lawyer’s trust account, overseen by Kansas/Missouri licensed attorneys. Your future settlement funds will be held temporarily in Kansas City and not out of the Midwest.
– Our contract contains no arbitration clause between the farmer and us as your attorneys.
– If no monies are received by you, then you owe us no attorney fees or costs.
– We have over 35 years combined litigation experience in Midwest courts, and we have experience representing clients in a national, coordinated MDL litigation such as Syngenta.
– We are filing lawsuits now. Various state statute of limitations apply. Act Now as time is of the essence !
Spencer Shields, Managing Attorney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
James Yoakum, Member Attorney (email@example.com)
Shields Law Group, LLC
Olathe – Kansas City
816-421-0800 or 913-963-3011