Paraquat MDL Judge Extends Deadlines In Parkinson’s Disease Cases Selected For Additional Discovery

With more than 2,000 Paraquat Parkinson's disease lawsuits pending in the federal court system, case-specific discovery is moving forward in a group of 20 representative claims to promote settlement negotiations

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all Paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuits has extended various deadlines for concluding depositions and other discovery in a group of 20 non-bellwether cases, which were selected for additional pretrial workup earlier this year to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of the claims.

There are currently more than 2,000 product liability cases 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 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 evaluate 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 by 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 the middle of next year.

Case-Specific Discovery to Guide Paraquat MDL Settlement Talks

To help promote Paraquat settlement talks and avoid the need for each individual case to go to trial, Judge Rosenstengal ordered case-specific discovery in a group of 20 additional lawsuits earlier this year. These are not currently scheduled for a bellwether trial, but are believed to be typical of Paraquat cases likely to go before juries, and may be among the first remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trials if the Paraquat MDL is not resolved.

The cases were selected in August 2022, and deadlines were established for the parties to complete depositions in most of the cases this week. However, the parties conferred with the Special Master assigned to the litigation, and requested additional time to complete the discovery.

In a court order (PDF) issued on October 14, Judge Rosenstengal granted most of the cases an extension for the completion of deposition deadlines, with most now due to be completed by November 16.

October 2022 Paraquat MDL Update

Separate from the pretrial discovery being conducted in this group of 20 non-bellwether cases, the parties have prepared six cases for early bellwether trials, which are scheduled to begin on July 24, 2023.

According to an updated docket report (PDF) issued on October 14, 2022, there are currently 2,009 lawsuits included in the Paraquat MDL before Judge Rosenstengal. However, this represents an increase of more than 500 new claims filed over the past six months.

While the outcome of the bellwether trials and case-specific discovery in non-bellwether claims will not have any binding impact on other plaintiffs, they are expected to greatly influence the any Paraquat settlement amounts the manufacturers may offer to avoid each individual claim being remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate trial dates in the coming years.

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