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A class action lawsuit filed earlier this month by an Iowa farmer seeks to pursue damages for thousands of farmers and agricultural workers exposed to the herbicide Paraquat who have not been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but now face a risk of developing the devastating condition in the future.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Doug Holliday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa on May 3, presenting claims against Syngenta and Chevron USA for failing to disclose the Parkinson’s risks from Paraquat-based grass and weed killers.
Although Paraquat has been banned in a number of counties, since ingesting even a small amount can quickly result in fatal injuries, it has been widely used throughout the United States for nearly 60 years, and more than 15 million pounds of the herbicide were sprayed over thousands of miles of cropland in 2017 alone.
According to allegations raised in the Paraquat class action lawsuit, Holliday is one of thousands of individuals who were exposed to the herbicide for years. He regularly sprayed Paraquat on his crops and farmland throughout Greenfield, Iowa, and was also exposed to the chemicals while mixing, loading or cleaning equipment, as well as from herbicide drift and contact with previously sprayed plants.
Throughout his exposure, Holliday indicates he was unaware of the link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, which has been reported with increasing frequency among farmers and agricultural workers exposed to the chemical.
“As a direct and proximate result of using Paraquat, Plaintiff is at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease and is in need of regular monitoring,” according to the complaint. “Plaintiff would not have used this particular pesticide had he known it would subject him to a significantly increased risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease, as well as the costs associated with diagnoses, medication, treatment and other costs and procedures.”
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive brain disorder, which causes shaking, stiffness, difficulty walking and other debilitating symptoms which worsen over time. There is no easy way to diagnose Parkinson’s and individuals live with the disability for decades, typically incurring more than $26,400 per year for their care.
While Holliday indicates he has not been diagnosed with the condition, he claims Syngenta and Chevron should be required to pay compensatory damages, as well as cover the costs of medical monitoring for himself and other farmers unknowingly exposed to a Parkinson’s risk from Paraquat.
“Defendants did not adequately warn Plaintiff or Paraquat consumers that their use of and exposure to Paraquat significantly increased their risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease,” the lawsuit states. “Nor did Defendants (a) adequately test Paraquat to, among other things, determine the nature and extent of exposure under all relevant conditions, including when mixed in particular formulations, or (b) formulate or label Paraquat so to render such exposure unlikely.”
The case raises similar allegations to those presented in a growing number of Paraquat lawsuits filed in recent months by individuals who have already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after spraying, handling or coming into contact with the herbicide.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the claims, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to hold a hearing later this week on whether to consolidate and centralize the claims before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings. Known as an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, the process would result in the cases being handled in a manner similar to a Paraquat class action, but each lawsuit would remain an individual claim, and damages would not be pursued through one class representative like is proposed in the complaint filed by Holliday.