Motions to Dismiss Paraquat Parkinson’s Lawsuits Will Be Considered By MDL Judge

Judge denies defendants' claims some cases were time-barred by statutes of limitations.

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all Paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuits indicates the Court will consider a motion filed by defendants to dismiss some of the cases and claims, despite objections raised by Plaintiffs that it is premature at this early stage in the litigation.

Paraquat is a controversial weed killer, which was first introduced in the 1960s, and has been widely used on farms and throughout the agricultural industry. Although it is known to cause fatal poisoning if even a small amount is ingested, a growing number of farmers and farm workers now allege they developed Parkinson’s disease after spraying, mixing or handling the herbicide in the normal and recommended manner.

Syngenta and Chevron U.S.A. now face nearly 400 product liability lawsuits brought throughout the federal court system, each raising similar claims that the manufacturers failed to warn users about the link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease. However, as lawyers continue to investigate and file claims in the coming months, it is widely expected that the Paraquat litigation will eventually include several thousand lawsuits.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints being brought in U.S. District Courts nationwide, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided earlier this year to establish a Paraquat MDL, which centralized all pretrial proceedings before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, where the parties are engaging in discovery and preparing for a series of bellwether trials that are expected to begin in late 2022.

Early in the MDL proceedings, Syngenta and Chevron both filed partial motions to dismiss in September, claiming that some of the complaints were filed after the applicable statute of limitations expired, some failed to state a claim, and that some claims had to be dismissed for specific reasons based on various state laws.

In a response filed last month, Plaintiffs argued that the Court should not consider the motion, indicating that it violates the fundamental purpose of an MDL, which is intended to promote efficient pretrial proceedings and lead to the efficient, just and expeditious resolution of actions. Plaintiffs maintained that evaluating the Defendant’s motions will require a fact-intensive review of every allegation in every complaint, which defeats a streamlined approach to the litigation. Therefore, Plaintiffs urged the court to summarily deny the motion, which would be more appropriate to consider during the bellwether stage as trial dates approach.

Judge Rosentengel issued a Memorandum and order (PDF) on November 10, indicating she was compelled by law to consider defendants’ motions to dismiss, because they were correctly and timely filed. While the Court did deny defendants’ motions to dismiss cases based on statute of limitations, pending further information on those claims, Judge Rosenstengel indicated that Plaintiffs should respond to the substance of the arguments on or before December 13, and Defendants will have until January 3 to file any reply.

As part of the “bellwether” process in the Paraquat MDL, Judge Rosenstengel has indicated that a series of early trial dates will be held to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims. While the outcome will not have any binding effect on other claims, the cases will be closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation and are likely to have a substantial impact on any Paraquat Parkinson’s disease settlements the manufacturers offer to avoid facing individual jury trials in hundreds of claims.

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