Lawsuit Blames Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis on Years of Mixing and Spraying Paraquat Weed Killer

Repeated exposure to Paraquat caused droplets to be swallowed, ingested or absorbed through the skin, leading to the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

Years of handling, mixing and spraying Paraquat weed killer caused a woman’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, according to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit.

The complaint (PDF) was brought by Laronda Johnson last week in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, pursuing damages against Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, for failing to warn about the risks associated with the widely used herbicide.

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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Johnson, of Los Angeles, indicates in her lawsuit that she was exposed to Paraquat from about 2011 to 2019, when she repeatedly worked with the herbicide. While mixing, handling and spraying, she indicates that droplets were inhaled, ingested or landed on her skin..

“After repeated and consistent Paraquat exposure, Plaintiff began suffering neurological injuries and doctors subsequently diagnosed Plaintiff with Parkinson’s disease,” the lawsuit states. “Paraquat entered Plaintiff’s bloodstream, attacked Plaintiff’s nervous system, and caused Plaintiff to develop Parkinson’s disease.”

Johnson said neither she nor her doctors discovered the connection between Paraquat and her Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

“Defendants took active steps to conceal this harmful side effect of Paraquat,” Johnson says in her complaint. “Syngenta’s statements proclaiming the safety of Paraquat and disregarding its dangers were designed to mislead the agricultural community and the public at large – including Plaintiff.”

October 2022 Paraquat Parkinson’s Lawsuit Update

Johnson’s case will soon be consolidated with other Paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuits against Syngenta, which are centralized before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised by hundreds of plaintiffs diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease from Paraquat, Judge Rosenstengel has established a “bellwether” trial program where a group of six representative cases are being prepared to go before juries next year, to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their claims and promote potential Paraquat settlement discussions that will avoid the need for each individual case to be remanded for trial.

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 Parkinson’s bellwether 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.

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