Lawsuit Alleges Paraquat Caused Parkinson’s Disease While Working on Farms and as Chemical Applicator

Licensed applicator alleges that he was never told he needed additional protective equipment to prevent Paraquat causing Parkinson's or other neurological injury

Following years working on farms as a licensed chemical applicator, a Missouri man indicates that exposure to Paraquat caused Parkinson’s disease to develop, leaving him with a permanent neurological injury.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Robert Niemeyer in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on March 5, presenting claims against Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, and Chevron U.S.A, Inc., who manufactured and sold versions of the controversial herbicide for decades.

Paraquat is commonly used on farms to control weeds and long grass, even though it has been banned in several countries due to the toxic side effects. However, a growing number of farm workers are now filing Paraquat lawsuits alleging that Syngenta and Chevron knew that users faced an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, even when all of the manufacturers’ recommended safety precautions were followed.

According to the lawsuit, Niemeyer worked as a farm worker and licensed chemical applicator on farms throughout Missouri from 1974 to 2016. During that time, he was repeated exposed to the herbicide as he handled, mixed, and applied Paraquat with a tractor.

In 2021, Niemeyer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which is a progressive neurological injury that causes tremors, muscular rigidity and slow movements. There is no cure for the condition, and it can have a devastating impact on an individuals life.

The lawsuit indicates that the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease was caused by Paraquat exposures, indicating that even as a licensed chemical applicator he was never told the true risks of being exposed to the weed killer.

“No doctor or any other person ever told Plaintiff that the Plaintiff’s Parkinson’s disease was or could have been caused by exposure to Paraquat,” the lawsuit states. “At no time when Plaintiff was present as paraquat was being sprayed was he aware that exposure to Paraquat could cause any latent injury, including any neurological injury or Parkinson’s Disease, or that any precautions were necessary to prevent any latent injury that could be caused by exposure to Paraquat.”

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

The lawsuit filed by Niemeyer will be consolidated with similar claims brought throughout the federal court system, which have been centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings. A series of early “bellwether” trials are expected to begin later this year, to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims. 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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