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Nearly 200 Paraquat Lawsuits Over Parkinson’s Diagnosis Pending in Federal MDL

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The number of Paraquat lawsuits filed in federal courts nationwide has grown to nearly 200, with plaintiffs across the country alleging that exposure to the controversial herbicide caused a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Paraquat is a widely used on farms and within the agricultural industry to control weeds and long grass. It is sold exclusively through farming and agricultural supply stores under a number of brand names, including Gramoxone, Blanco, Cyclone, Bonedry and others.

Since it is known to be toxic and users face a risk of Paraquat poisoning if even a small amount of the herbicide is ingested, the herbicide is only available in the United States under a program that requires users to go through a training program on the safe handling of the herbicide. However, product liability lawsuits now allege the manufacturers failed to warn about the risk that Paraquat may cause Parkinson’s disease and other neurological injuries, even when the recommended precautions are taken.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in several hundred lawsuits brought in U.S. District Courts nationwide, the federal Paraquat litigation was centralized earlier this year before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, who is presiding over coordinated discovery and management of a federal multidistrict litigation.

After initially entering a case management order that provided the manufacturers an extension of time to answer or otherwise respond to all complaints, Judge Rosenstengel indicated on August 12 that the litigation will be moving forward, requiring the defendants to file answers to all served complaints within 30 days.

According to a docket report (PDF) issued by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation on August 13, there were already 181 lawsuits over Paraquat pending before Judge Rosenstengel and dozens of additional cases have been added over the past few weeks. As Paraquat lawyers continue to investigate and file potential claims, it is widely expected that the litigation will ultimately include several thousand lawsuits over Parkinson’s diagnosed among former users or handlers of Paraquat products.

Paraquat Parkinson’s Disease Concerns

The Paraquat MDL was established after a number of studies published in recent years highlighted a potential Parkinson’s disease risk.

In 2012, researchers from UCLA found a link between pesticide use and a risk of developing Parkinson’s, indicating that individuals who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and were exposed to Paraquat were three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Another study published in May 2013 found yet another link between pesticide exposure and an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, indicating that pesticide exposure may increased th risk of developing Parkinson’s by 60 percent.

That study also found the risk increased with exposure to any type of pesticide, herbicide or solvent; but exposure to specific chemicals doubled the risk. Chemicals used in the test included Paraquat, Maneb and other pesticides.

In March 2016, the EPA announced it would be re-evaluating the health risks with Paraquat, and a number of health experts and consumer advocacy groups have called on the agency to remove Paraquat-based herbicides from the market in the U.S. However, it continues to be used by farmers and other industries for weed and grass control, potentially exposing individuals handling, mixing or applying the Paraquat to life-long health risks.

Parkinson’s disease affects more than 500,000 Americans, with approximately 50,000 new cases each year. The disease causes the loss of motor functions, causing imbalance and shaking, which gets progressively worse over time.

As part of the coordinated management of the litigation, Judge Rosenstengel has previously indicated that the first Paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuit will be prepared for trial to begin by November 2022, which will be viewed as a “bellwether” to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims.

The next status conference before Judge Rosenstengel is scheduled for August 27, this Friday, and will be held via videoconference due to the ongoing pandemic.

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