For years, farmers and agricultural workers have used herbicides to control weed and grass growth that can be detrimental to crops, dry out certain plants, and remove leaves from them before harvesting. But over time, regular herbicide use has caused plants to become resistant, leading to stronger – and in many cases, more toxic and dangerous – herbicides sprayed on crops.
Paraquat dichloride is a prominent example of a highly toxic, yet commonly used herbicide in the U.S. While it’s extremely effective and only sold commercially, the risks of using the herbicide are beginning to emerge. Research into the health effects of herbicides have demonstrated there may be serious dangers of working with paraquat.
In fact, studies have associated paraquat with a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease, among other illnesses. As a result, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against its manufacturers, including Syngenta and Chevron.
Plaintiffs allege they developed Parkinson’s disease due to paraquat exposure, and that manufacturers failed to warn consumers of the risks. Many plaintiffs sprayed, mixed, or packaged the herbicide over the course of years, even decades. Through scientific studies that examined possible harmful effects of herbicides on humans, we’ve learned that small amounts of exposure over various periods of time can be dangerous, and that a victim may not develop an illness until years later.
Adding to concerns is another study that released its findings on the effects of herbicides in August 2022. Researchers found a possible link between paraquat exposure and thyroid cancer. More research is needed, but when combined with thousands of existing paraquat lawsuits, more claims of other serious illnesses may be on the horizon.
What’s Happening with the Paraquat MDL?
Farmers, agricultural workers, and people who lived near crops that were sprayed with paraquat have reported kidney, lung, and liver failure, Parkinson’s disease, and other illnesses – and claim the herbicide is the cause.
Paraquat lawsuits began piling up in 2020, and in June 2021, were consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of Illinois. Combining the paraquat lawsuits into MDL streamlines pre-trial proceedings, limiting individual lawsuits from tying up countless courtrooms. This type of litigation is beneficial when the same or similar harm is alleged in widespread lawsuits, which we’ve seen fits over 2,000 of these cases.
Once consolidated, the process of selecting the paraquat bellwether trials began. After both parties presented their preferred cases for these “test trials,” the judge presiding over the MDL chose six of them, and the first bellwether trial was set for November 2022.
However, there have been numerous delays, and now the first one isn’t scheduled until July 2023. Plaintiffs and advocates have been left to continue waiting for the start of the paraquat trials, and more cases are expected to join the fray before then.
The result of these cases will give each side a look at the strength of their arguments. They’ll be an indication of how future trials might go but may also lead to settlement offers that avoid hundreds or thousands of lengthy court battles across the U.S. That said, it’s unlikely settlements will be reached prior to these trials. If the outcomes are positive for the plaintiffs and the judge awards high settlement amounts, it will set the stage for future negotiations, and likely push paraquat manufacturers to settle quickly.
Proving that a Parkinson’s diagnosis was the result of paraquat exposure will be critical in negotiations and upcoming trials. Both parties will need to come armed with research and expert witnesses when these complex product liability trials begin, and which side will prevail is unknown at this time. If it’s decided that paraquat manufacturers failed to warn consumers of the risks and knew or should have known the dangers of their product, these lawsuits will help hold them accountable and provide much-needed compensation for extensive health effects.
Factors that are likely to affect how much each plaintiff receives include their Parkinson’s disease activity and progression, how long they were exposed to paraquat and the frequency of exposure, and their age when diagnosed. Like other large scale toxic exposure lawsuits, the paraquat MDL may end up being worth hundreds of millions, if not more.
The EPA’s Paraquat Renewal Update
The history of paraquat use in the U.S. is decades long; farmers and agricultural workers began using it in the 1950’s, and until more recent years, few took issue with its role in the industry. However, dozens of countries have banned paraquat, and with mounting research demonstrating the possible dangers, its approval for continued use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been questioned. Now, the EPA has decided to re-evaluate its decision to keep paraquat commercially accessible.
The EPA must review registered herbicides every 15 years, and in July 2021, they released their interim decision to re-approve paraquat for use in the U.S. They cited there was no link between the herbicide and Parkinson’s disease. After giving the okay to paraquat once again, there was significant pushback from environmental and health advocacy groups.
A little over a year later, the EPA asked for a voluntary remand from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – a move that would allow them to reconsider parts of paraquat’s re-approval. In December 2022, the court granted the request, and the agency will once again review evidence surrounding the possible health effects of paraquat and whether its safe for continued use.
Why Consider Filing a Paraquat Lawsuit
Not just anyone can use paraquat; it’s a highly controlled and regulated herbicide, and anyone who applies it must be trained and certified to do so, use protective gear, and follow safety protocols. And yet, with thousands of plaintiffs alleging paraquat caused them to develop a serious illness, there are valid concerns about whether the safeguards in place are doing their job and if it’s worth the risks.
There’s no antidote and ingesting even a small amount of paraquat is most often fatal. Research has associated exposure to the herbicide in other ways, such as breathing it in or absorbing it through the skin, to Parkinson’s disease, and in the latest study, possibly thyroid cancer.
The life-changing, long-term impact of Parkinson’s disease is significant. It’s a progressive illness that worsens over time, and the effects of Parkinson’s disease are devastating for the individual and their family. It’s costly, but on much more than a financial level. While the causes of Parkinson’s disease are unknown, scientists have determined several factors that may increase risks, including exposure to certain chemicals, like paraquat dichloride.
There are medical costs for medication, therapies, and assistive devices, and there’s often a need to enter a care facility or have in-home care in later stages of the illness. Parkinson’s disease affects people on a professional and financial level, including lost wages, lost opportunities for advancement, and the loss of a family member’s income. But it also affects relationships and enjoyment of life and takes a significant emotional toll on the whole family. If it’s possible you were exposed to paraquat in any way and have Parkinson’s, these are important things to consider when thinking of filing a paraquat lawsuit.
Beyond evaluating whether your health issues could have been caused by the herbicide, speaking with an experienced product liability lawyer will help determine the best course of legal action. Are you eligible and should you join a paraquat class action, MDL, or file separately?
Every case is different and learning your legal options sooner than later is crucial, especially since there are statutes of limitations that vary state to state. Waiting too long to file a claim could cause you to miss the opportunity for both justice and compensation.
Bottom line? A paraquat lawsuit could provide financial stability for your family and peace of mind so you can focus on your health. If you think you’ve been exposed to paraquat and have developed Parkinson’s or another linked illness, contact an attorney as soon as possible.