Legal troubles continue to mount for Syngenta, the manufacturer of paraquat – the herbicide used to control grass, weeds and vegetation across the U.S. Recently, lawsuits have been filed against Syngenta for personal injury, product liability and negligence. Multiple lawsuits have been filed across state and federal courts. Here is a quick overview of some of the U.S. lawsuits facing the Switzerland-based Syngenta Group.
On March 25, 2021, Rakoczy v. Syngenta Crop Protection LLC, Syngenta AG, Chevron U.S.A. Inc., was filed in the Northern District of California. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Paul Rakoczy, a former farmworker between 2013 and 2017 who was exposed to and absorbed, ingested and inhaled paraquat while applying the herbicide in Long Beach, California.
Mr. Rakoczy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in December 2015. At no time did anyone advise him that paraquat exposure could cause Parkinson’s. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants had knowledge that paraquat exposure increases the likelihood of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s to two to five times than the average person but concealed this information.
Similar to this case, Kearns v. Syngenta et al is a personal injury lawsuit that focuses on former farmworker Michael Kearns who was repeatedly exposed to paraquat as a crop duster in Illinois. Mr. Kearns was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in November 2019. At no point was Mr. Kearns informed that exposure to paraquat could cause injury or Parkinson’s. This suit was filed in December 2020 in Illinois.
As well, Hoffman v. Syngenta et al, a personal injury and product liability lawsuit, was filed in May 2018 on behalf of 12 individuals and their spouses who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The plaintiffs allege that the paraquat they were exposed to was defective, making it unreasonably dangerous. When used reasonably, paraquat exposure was likely to cause neurological damage. Paraquat’s risk of exposure in humans far outweighed the agricultural benefits. This lawsuit alleges that the manufacturers of paraquat failed to warn those using and who previously used paraquat about the risks of the herbicide. Finally, this lawsuit alleges that the manufacturers were negligent in their role to advise those using paraquat of its dangers.
Syngenta is facing a similar personal injury and product liability lawsuit in Wendler v. Syngenta et al. It was filed in December 2018 by Lorena Wendler, Marvin Wendler’s spouse. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Wendler’s Parkinson’s was caused by chronic low-dose exposure to paraquat while working in Illinois. This lawsuit alleges that Syngenta Crop Protection LLC, Syngenta AG, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP, Chevron U.S.A. Inc, Bergmann-Taylor Inc., and Growmark Inc. failed to provide adequate directions for using paraquat, did not provide adequate packaging, and failed to provide sufficient warnings about paraquat.
Syngenta Crop Protection LLC, Syngenta AG, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP, and Chevron U.S.A. Inc. have been served with a personal injury lawsuit in the case of Durbin v. Syngenta et al. Filed in federal court in March 2021, Mr. Durbin alleges that between 1983 and 2002 he was repeatedly exposed to, inhaled, ingested and absorbed paraquat into his body as part of working on farms in Illinois. According to the lawsuit, defendants knew or should have known the risk to farm workers who used paraquat, worked nearby or entered fields and orchards where paraquat was used. The suit alleges that the defendants concealed the risk of farm workers’ health.
Filed in February 2021, Runyon v Chevron U.S.A., Inc. et al and Piper v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc. et al – two personal injury and product liability lawsuits were filed in Illinois. Both lawsuits convey that while there was personal risk while preparing, using and spraying paraquat, both plaintiffs followed the manufacturer’s directions while doing so. Both of these lawsuits allege that the defendants failed to provide adequate packaging and failed to provide proper warnings about paraquat. Both Mr. Runyon and Mrs. Piper were diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
As lawsuits were filed against paraquat’s manufacturer, the EPA began reviewing the scientific link between paraquat and Parkinson’s. Based on these findings alone, there is not strong enough evidence to support the connection between paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s. Further research is needed. While the EPA is seeking more research, more than 30 countries have banned the sale and use of paraquat.
While personal injury and product liability lawsuits against paraquat manufacturer Syngenta continue to be filed and make their way through the legal system, farmworkers continue to be exposed to this life-altering herbicide, putting their health and lives at risk.