Paraquat Bellwether Cases Over Parkinson’s Disease To Be Selected For First Trial Dates

A group of 16 Paraquat cases will be prepared for a series of four early trial dates expected to begin between November 15, 2022 and September 18, 2023.

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Paraquat lawsuits, involving allegations that the controversial weedkiller left users with Parkinson’s disease, is calling for the parties to select a group of 16 potential bellwether cases, which will be prepared for a series of early trial dates beginning in November 2022.

Paraquat is a widely used herbicide, which has been sold through farming and agricultural supply stores under a number of brand names, including Gramoxone, Blanco, Cyclone, Bonedry and others.

Although the manufacturers warned users that there is a risk of fatal poisoning if even a small amount of the herbicide is ingested, a growing number of product liability lawsuits allege that the companies failed to disclose the link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s, which can leave users with permanent neurological damage after normal handling of the weedkiller.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in several hundred lawsuits brought in U.S. District Courts nationwide, all federal Paraquat cases have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation, where the parties have been engaging in coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings, into common issues that apply to all claims.

In late June, Judge Rosenstengal announced plans to set an aggressive trial schedule to get the first Paraquat bellwether cases before juries by November 2022, to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their arguments, and promote potential Parkinson’s settlements that may resolve the litigation.

In a case management order (PDF) issued on December 3, the Court laid out the procedures for selecting and identifying the first pool of Paraquat cases, from which the first bellwether trials will be selected.

The order calls for plaintiffs’ attorneys to select eight Paraquat cases, and the manufacturers Syngenta and Chevron will select four cases each, for limited fact discovery, resulting in a bellwether pool of 16 lawsuits. Each of the selected cases for the Paraquat bellwether program must have been filed on or before December 3, 2021 and must have a completed Plaintiff Assessment Questionnaire served and received by Defendants on or before December 8.

Chief Judge Rosenstengal’s order calls for limited fact discovery for the selected Paraquat cases to be completed by March 31, 2022. Once that limited discovery is completed, Plaintiffs can suggest two cases be stricken from the pool, and Syngenta and Chevron can each strike one case each by April 15, 2022.

Fact discovery and expert depositions would be completed by June 17, with dispositive motions, Daubert motions and any motions for summary judgment to be filed on or before July 1.

The final pretrial conference will take place on October 27, with the first trial scheduled to begin on November 15, 2022. Additional Paraquat bellwether trials are scheduled for March 13, 2023, June 12, 2023, and September 18, 2023.

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