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Paraquat Parkinson’s Disease Side Effects Make Weed Killer Defective, Lawsuit Claims

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A product liability lawsuit filed by a Kansas couple alleges the side effects of Paraquat exposure can result in Parkinson’s disease, making the controversial weed killer unreasonably dangerous, defective and not fit for use.

Paraquat is a herbicide that has been widely used throughout the United States since the mid-1960s, which is used to control weeds and long grass. Since accidentally ingesting even a small amount poses a serious risk of Paraquat poisoning and death, the products are heavily restricted and users are required to go through a training certification process. However, a growing number of Paraquat lawsuits are now being filed against claim Syngenta and Chevron, alleging that the manufacturers withheld information about the potential Parkinson’s disease side effects, which users face even when the recommended precautions are followed.

Duane Regehr and his wife, Sharon, filed a complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on August 12, claiming his use and exposure to Paraquat throughout the state of Kansas has left him with Parkinson’s disease.

According to the lawsuit, Regehr applied Paraquat to fields across the state, including on his own farm, between 1985 and 2003, at which time he repeatedly inhaled, ingested or absorbed the herbicide through his skin. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2005.

“This defective condition existed in the paraquat that Defendants, Defendants’ corporate predecessors, and others with whom they acted in concert designed, manufactured, distributed, and sold, and to which Plaintiff Duane Regehr was exposed, when it left the control of Defendants, Defendants’ corporate predecessors, and others with whom they acted in concert and was placed into the stream of commerce,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of this defective condition, the paraquat that Defendants, Defendants’ corporate predecessors, and others with whom they acted in concert designed, manufactured, distributed, and sold, and to which Plaintiff Duane Regehr was exposed, either failed to perform in the manner reasonably to be expected in light of its nature and intended function, or the magnitude of the dangers outweighed its utility.”

While genetics are often believed to be a major cause of Parkinson’s disease, growing research indicates genes are only believed to be associated with about one-in-ten cases. Side effects of herbicide and pesticide exposure are increasingly considered a leading cause, especially when combined with other factors that place individuals at risk of the development of Parkinson’s.

The case joins dozens of Paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuits now filed in courts throughout the U.S., each raising similar allegations.

Following an order issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in June, the complaints are being transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, where the Paraquat litigation has been centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings. However, if Paraquat settlements or another resolution for the litigation is not reached, each individual case may later be returned to the home district where it was originally filed for a future trial.

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