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What’s Happening with Paraquat and Parkinson’s Lawsuits?

Around 1,000 paraquat lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers of the popular weed and grass killer. These lawsuits claim paraquat increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease and that the herbicide manufacturers, including Syngenta and Chevron USA, failed to warn consumers of the risks.

Many of the plaintiffs in class action lawsuits and those whose cases are part of the multidistrict litigation (MDL) are farmers and agricultural workers. They’re also comprised of people who lived in areas where paraquat was used nearby. Plaintiffs allege that their exposure to the herbicide caused them to develop Parkinson’s disease. The paraquat lawsuits aim to seek compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical costs, and the disease’s impact on relationships and quality of life.

Farmer spraying green wheat field

What’s New with the Paraquat MDL?

In February, Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel – the judge handling the multidistrict litigation (MDL) case – advanced most paraquat claims, the first win for the hundreds of plaintiffs involved. Judge Rosentengel denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss claims for strict product liability, negligence, breach of implied warranty and violation of several states’ consumer protection laws. She did, however, dismiss the public nuisance claim.

Now, the first paraquat MDL trial is scheduled for November 15, 2022, and three additional trial dates were set for 2023 (March 13, June 12, and September 18). The dates were confirmed after the plaintiffs and defendants submitted lists of cases they preferred for the first round of trials. The judge received the lists by the April deadline, reviewed their selections and decided on six lawsuits for the bellwether trials. The results of these early proceedings often guide future jury awards and settlements and show whether a case has merit.

There are a few other important upcoming dates in the paraquat MDL, including the June 17 deadline for the completion of expert depositions and disclosure and discovery of expert witnesses. July 1 is another, this one for parties to file summary judgment motions. These motions could seek to:

  • Dispose of a case without a jury trial based on not supplying enough evidence to support a claim
  • Invoke the statute of limitations
  • Exclude unreliable or unqualified experts or evidence from a trial

Unfortunately, there’s already been a delay to one aspect of the multidistrict litigation process. The May 16 deadline to complete fact discovery and medical exams was suspended by the judge. The cause? Both the plaintiffs and defendants recently added a combined 137 fact witnesses, making the deadline unachievable given the number of new witnesses. While being unable to meet this deadline hasn’t pushed the much-anticipated November trial, more hiccups could do so.

About the Paraquat MDL

In 2017, there were almost 400 lawsuits against paraquat manufacturers. With the influx of claims that followed alleging the same or similar harm, hundreds of paraquat lawsuits were consolidated into multidistrict litigation in July 2021. Consolidating cases this way means there’s one judge and one forum for filing claims – in this case, that’s the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Illinois.

The latest numbers indicate that 681 lawsuits are pending in the MDL that claim failure to warn and that the herbicide manufacturers were aware or should have been aware of the known risks. It allows the discovery process, pre-trial motions, and scheduling of hearings on plaintiffs and defense motions to be heard in one court.

To become part of the paraquat MDL, potential plaintiffs are given a questionnaire to assess:

  • Extent and type of exposure
  • Diagnosis or history of Parkinson’s disease
  • Family history of neurodegenerative diseases
  • Financial damages

There are also many class action lawsuits that involve plaintiffs who were exposed to paraquat and developed Parkinson’s disease. Unlike multidistrict litigation, where each claim is seen as separate, class actions are a single lawsuit, and the verdict applies to everyone taking part in the claim.

Whether you should join a paraquat class action or pursue the paraquat MDL is highly individual. You should consult with a paraquat lawyer to discuss your case and legal options. Producing evidence that exposure to the herbicide caused Parkinson’s is crucial, but it’s also important to pursue legal action quickly; every state has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims, so the sooner the better.

Is there a Link Between Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease?

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is largely unknown, but current research suggests genetic and environmental factors affect a person’s risk of developing it. And over the past decade, studies have linked Parkinson’s to chemicals in herbicides and pesticides, including paraquat. They’ve shown there’s an increased risk of developing the disease through various types of exposure.

Parkinson’s is an incurable, progressive nervous system disease that leads to uncontrollable and unintended movements, tremors, and muscular rigidity. It worsens over time, can cause cognitive impairment, and lead to depression and sleep disorders. It’s a life-changing diagnosis that requires greater assistance and care as the disease progresses.

Dangers of Paraquat Exposure

Paraquat is a popular herbicide used in the agricultural industry. It’s a highly effective weed killer that’s only sold to commercially licensed companies, but its toxic properties are extremely dangerous to anyone who ingests, inhales, or has direct contact with it. It’s so dangerous that just one sip of paraquat can be fatal.

The continued use of the herbicide in the U.S. was reviewed and reapproved in 2020, even though it’s banned in over 30 countries and the European Union due to health concerns from exposure. The amount and timeline of paraquat exposure can affect when symptoms present and when long-term, chronic health problems develop. For example, those who inhale small amounts over many years may not show symptoms or develop illnesses until much later in life.

There are many symptoms of paraquat exposure, from nausea and abdominal pain to muscle weakness and confusion. It can damage the intestines, stomach, and skin, scar the lungs, and cause kidney, liver, and respiratory failure.

Can Paraquat Lawsuits Still be Filed?

Research studies focused on paraquat exposure have shown an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. In fact, a 2011 federal study by the National Institutes of Health concluded that those exposed to the herbicide are 2.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s than those who aren’t.

While there are already many class actions and the MDL in motion, it’s not too late to file a paraquat lawsuit. Many more are expected. However, if you or a loved one were exposed to the herbicide and have developed Parkinson’s disease, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Personal injury claims are subject to a state’s statute of limitations, and once passed, a claim of this kind is no longer an option.

Parkinson’s disease causes extensive and debilitating symptoms, not to mention the emotional, social, and professional impact it has. Being adequately compensated can lessen the burden for those suffering, as well as their families.

Whether plaintiffs in the paraquat class action and MDL lawsuits can prove the dangers and failure on the part of the manufacturers is yet to be seen, but the outcome of the first round of trials is likely to influence future rulings and settlements.