Paraquat Sprayed on Family Farm Led to Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, Lawsuit Claims

Parkinson's disease symptoms developed after Paraquat exposure working on his family farm, ultimately resulting in a diagnosis in Feb. 2022

A product liability lawsuit filed by a Kentucky man indicates he developed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease from spraying Paraquat on his family farm for years, eventually leading to a diagnosis of the brain disorder that has left him with uncontrollable movements, shaking, stiffness and other debilitating problems.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Donnie Hatchett in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on January 11, alleging that Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, and Chevron U.S.A., Inc. failed to provide adequate warnings about the risk of Parkinson’s disease symptoms following use of their Paraquat products.

Paraquat Parkinson’s Disease Risks

Paraquat was originally developed in the 1950s by Imperial Chemical Industries, PLC (ICI), which is a legacy company of Syngenta, and the weed killer was first marketed under the brand name Gramoxone in the 1960s. However, over the subsequent decades Syngenta sold Paraquat formulations under a variety of names, and promoted the weed killer without warning users about the long-term side effects they may face from exposure.

Although it has been widely used for decades, and is already heavily restricted in the United States due to the risk of Paraquat toxicity if even a small amount of the weed killer is ingested, there are now a growing number of Paraquat lawsuits being pursued by former users diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, indicating that studies have found exposure may be linked to a two- to five-fold increased risk among individuals regularly handling, mixing and spraying Paraquat, compared to populations that do not have such occupational exposure.

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Paraquat Lawsuits

Exposure to the toxic herbicide Paraquat has been linked to a risk of Parkinson's disease.

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According to the lawsuit, Hatchett was exposed to Paraquat while working on his family farm in Kentucky from 1995 through 2018, where it was regularly mixed, loaded, applied and cleaned off of equipment. As a result of spray drift and direct contact with sprayed plants, Hatchett indicates he regularly inhaled or ingested Paraquat into his body, without knowing that working with the weed killer exposed him to long-term side effects.

While Hatchett indicates he was suffering neurological symptoms consistent with Parkinson’s disease for some time, he was not diagnosed with the ailment until last year. However, the lawsuit claims the manufacturers knew or should have known about the risk, but withheld warnings.

“During the entire time that Plaintiff was exposed to paraquat, Plaintiff did not know that exposure to paraquat when handled according to the instructions could be injurious to Plaintiff or others,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff first learned that exposure to paraquat can cause Parkinson’s disease, end stage renal disease, and other serious illnesses sometime after February 2022.”

January 2023 Paraquat Parkinson’s Disease Lawsuit Update

Hatchett joins more than 2,000 other individuals pursuing Paraquat lawsuits against Syngenta and Chevron in the federal courts, each raising similar allegations that the companies failed to warn farmers and agricultural users about the link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, which research has found may develop years after regularly spraying, mixing, transporting or handling the weed killer.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, the federal cases have been centralized as part of a Paraquat MDL (multi-district litigation), which is consolidated before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

To help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout the Paraquat litigation, the Court previously set an aggressive schedule that anticipated the first case would go before a jury by late 2022. However, as a growing number of complaints continued to be filed, the start of the first Paraquat trial has been reset to begin in July 2023.

While the outcome of those early trials will not be binding on Hatchett and other plaintiffs, they will be closely watched to gauge the average Paraquat lawsuit payout awarded by juries. Following bellwether trials before Judge Rosenstengel, if the manufacturers fail to negotiate Paraquat settlements or otherwise resolve the litigation, hundreds of individuals claims may be remanded to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates in the future.

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