Court Selects 20 More Paraquat Lawsuits For Limited Discovery, As Start of First Trial Reset for July 2023

Lawsuits claiming exposure to Paraquat caused Parkinson's disease will go through depositions, to provide additional information on strengths and weaknesses for hundreds of cases Pending nationwide

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Paraquat lawsuits indicates that the parties must complete depositions and limited discovery in another 20 cases involving Parkinson’s disease diagnosed among former users of the pesticide, while a prior group of bellwether claims are being prepared for early trial dates next year.

There are currently nearly 1,800 product liability lawsuits filed 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 before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.

To help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout the litigation, the Court previously set an aggressive schedule that anticipated the first Paraquat Parkinson’s trial dates going before a jury in late 2022. However, as a growing number of claims continue to be filed, the start of that first jury trial has been pushed back to mid-2023.

Judge Rosenstengel previously had the parties complete case-specific discovery in a group of 16 Paraquat bellwether cases selected earlier this year, which were designed to be representative of issues and injuries that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

That group of 16 was later narrowed to six Paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuits, which are eligible for a series of trial dates that were previously expected to go before juries between November 2022 and the end of 2023.

This week, Judge Rosenstengel issued a case management order (PDF) that resets the pretrial schedule for those initial bellwether claims, indicating the first trial selection case will now begin on July 24, 2023.

In a separate order (PDF) issued the same day, Judge Rosenstengel confirmed the Court still intends to pick the first trial case from the original six bellwether claims, but indicates that limited discovery should be completed over the coming months in another group of 20 claims.

“As the number of case filings steadily increases, the Court believes that additional depositions will assist the Court in gathering more information on Plaintiffs and their claims,” the order states. “Specifically, additional depositions will provide representative data about Plaintiffs, determine whether Plaintiffs’ claims are plausible and substantiated, and expose non-meritorious claims.”

While the outcome of the bellwether trials will not have any binding impact on other plaintiffs, they will be closely watched by all parties involved, and are expected to greatly influence any Paraquat settlement offers the manufacturers may make to avoid hundreds of individual cases later being remanded back for separate trial dates in U.S. District Courts nationwide.

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