Frequent, Prolonged Paraquat Exposure Led to Parkinson’s Disease, Lawsuit Claims

Lawsuit alleges Parkinson's disease diagnosed in 2004, decades after exposure to Paraquat working on farms

According to allegations raised in a recently filed lawsuit, an Arizona man indicates that he developed Parkinson’s disease from Paraquat, decades after exposure to the controversial weedkiller while working on a farm in Iowa, and living near his own father’s crops.

Jack Leon Harmsen filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on December 14, indicating that Syngenta Crop Protection, and Chevron U.S.A. failed to warn about the potential risks from Paraquat exposure for decades, and continued to market the dangerous herbicide.

Paraquat has been widely used on farms throughout the United States since the mid-1960s, to control weeds and long grass. However, a growing body of research has established a link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s diagnosed among farmers and others in the agricultural industry, even when all of the manufacturer’s recommended safety precautions were followed.

According to the lawsuit, Harmsen worked on a farm in Iowa during the summer growing season from 1969 to 1973, at which time he was frequently exposed to Paraquat for prolonged periods of time. He also indicates that he was frequently exposed to Paraquat on his father’s own farm for years.

“After repeated and consistent Paraquat exposure, Plaintiff began suffering neurological injuries consistent with Parkinson’s disease and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in or about 2004,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff’s neurological injuries have continued and progressed over time, and Plaintiff suffers these injuries at present and will continue to suffer these injuries into the future.”

The lawsuit blames Harmsen’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis on his Paraquat exposure.

Paraquat Parkinson’s Litigation

The case joins dozens of similar Paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuits now filed in courts throughout the U.S., each raising similar allegations that the manufacturers withheld information about the devastating neurological side effects that may result from mixing, spraying, handling or even being in proximity to the herbicide.

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.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed throughout the U.S., the federal Paraquat litigation has been centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

As part of the coordinated federal litigation, a federal judge has indicated that a series of “bellwether” trials 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. 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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