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Parties representing plaintiffs and defendants in Paraquat lawsuits presented oral arguments today to a panel of federal judges, requesting all claims brought by individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease following exposure to the herbicide be consolidated in one U.S. District Court for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Paraquat is a weed and grass killer manufactured and sold since 1962, which is widely used on a number of farms throughout the U.S. Although it has been banned in several countries, the herbicide remains on the market in the United States under restrictions that require users to go through a special training and certification process on the safe handling of Paraquat, since ingesting even a small amount can quickly result in death.
On Thursday, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) heard oral arguments supporting the creation of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for the Paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuits.
The hearing comes as Syngenta and Chevron face a growing number of similar claims brought in different U.S. District Courts nationwide, each alleging the companies withheld information from consumers for decades about the link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, which studies have found may develop after routine exposure while spraying, mixing or otherwise coming into contact with the herbicide, even when all safety precautions are followed.
Plaintiffs filed the request earlier this year, arguing that consolidation would help coordinate and manage discovery and pretrial proceedings in the growing litigation. They called for cases filed throughout the federal court system to be centralized in the Northern District of California, but a number of other venues have been proposed by other plaintiffs.
On April 29, Syngenta and Chevron each filed responses indicating they do not oppose centralizing pretrial proceedings, but argued the Northern District of California is not a suitable forum for the litigation, instead calling for the cases to be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, where the earliest cases were filed, and where a number of key document caches and witnesses are located.
The U.S. JPML heard oral arguments on the motion and various responses filed by interested parties during a hearing today at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, D.C. However, attendees will presented their arguments via videoconference or teleconference due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
If a Paraquat MDL is established, cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide will be transferred to one court for management, and series of early “bellwether” trials designed to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if Parkinson’s settlements or another resolution for is not reached following the MDL proceedings, each individual Paraquat case may later be returned to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial in the future.