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Settlement has been reached in a group of Paraquat cases pending California state court, resolving older claims over the weedkiller as the manufacturers face a growing number of new Parkinson’s disease lawsuits that are now being filed by farmers and agricultural workers in the federal court system.
Syngenta and Chevron have been litigating more than a dozen cases in California state court for several years, where the lawsuits were consolidated as part of a JCCP (Judicial Counsel Coordination Proceeding) in 2019.
According to a report by the public watchdog group U.S. Right To Know (USRTK), notice of the Paraquat settlement (PDF) was filed by the parties last week, indicating that all 16 cases pending in the JCCP have been resolved, and that the parties expect to file a request for dismissal no later than October 18, 2021.
Terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, and it is unclear what impact, if any, the settlement will have on Paraquat cases now being filed in the federal court system, as well as the internal documents uncovered during this earlier litigation, which reportedly show that Syngenta knew for decades that Paraquat was linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to USRTK.
Paraquat is a weed and grass killer manufactured and sold since 1962, which has been widely used on a number of farms throughout the U.S. The herbicide is also sold under a number of different brand name through farm supply stores, including Gramoxone, Blanco, Cyclone, Helmquat, Bonedry and others.
Although it has been banned in several countries, paraquat-based herbicides remains on the market in the United States under restrictions that require users to go through a special training and certification process on the safe handling of the chemicals, since ingesting even a small amount can quickly result in death.
Over the past year, a rapidly growing number of Paraquat lawsuits have been filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, alleging that farmers and agricultural workers face a Parkinson’s risk even after routine exposure while spraying, mixing or otherwise coming into contact with the herbicide.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in these newer claims brought throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided last month to centralize the cases before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
There are already about 100 product liability cases pending before Judge Rosenstengel, and the size of the litigation is expected to continue to grow rapidly in the coming months, as Paraquat injury lawyers file new claims for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease following exposure to the herbicide.
It is ultimately expected that more than 1,000 lawsuits may eventually be included in the Paraquat MDL (multidistrict litigation), and that the Court will schedule a series of early “bellwether” trials to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if the manufacturers fail to reach future Paraquat Parkinson’s settlements, each of the cases may later be returned to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate trial dates.