Paraquat Parkinson’s Disease Lawsuits Can Now Be Filed in Pennsylvania Using Court-Approved Short Form Complaint

The order resolves a dispute between parties over how detailed Paraquat Parkinson's disease lawsuit Short Form Complaints would need to be.

A Philadelphia judge overseeing Paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuits filed in that state has approved a “Short Form Complaint”, which will streamline the process for bringing new claims over the herbicide manufacturer’s failure to adequately disclose risks associated with exposure to the controversial weed killer.

The Pennsylvania state court’s mass tort litigation includes 264 personal injury lawsuits filed against Syngenta and Chevron, each involving plaintiffs who claim exposure to Paraquat led to the development of Parkinson’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms.

In addition, there are currently more than 2,000 similar lawsuits filed against Syngenta and Chevron in the federal courts, which are centralized as part a multidistrict litigation pending before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois.

The state and federal court litigation each involves nearly identical allegations, claiming that farmers and agricultural users were not adequately warned about the Paraquat Parkinson’s risks, which research has found may develop after regularly spraying, mixing, transporting or handling the weed killer, even when all recommended safety precautions are followed.

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Exposure to the toxic herbicide Paraquat has been linked to a risk of Parkinson's disease.

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Similar to the federal court consolidation, the Pennsylvania state court lawsuits are being coordinated during discovery and pretrial proceedings in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas before Judge Abbe Fletman.

Pennsylvania Paraquat Lawsuits Short Form Complaints

In complex product liability lawsuits, where large numbers of individuals are pursuing similar claims and allegations, it is common for the Court to approve a Master and Short Form Complaint, where plaintiffs can then file future lawsuits through an abbreviated form, where they adopt relevant allegations.

In an order (PDF) issued on March 31, Judge Fletman approved the Short Form Complaint which must be used when filing all future cases, allowing plaintiffs to use an abbreviated form that adopts certain allegations from a Master Complaint and provides limited case-specific information about their use of Paraquat and their neurological injuries.

Creating a standardized complaint form is intended to help improve the ability of the Court and the parties to gather information about hundreds of cases which are expected to be filed directly in the mass tort litigation over the coming weeks and months.

Order Allows Paraquat Lawsuits to Proceed

In addition to streamlining the filing process for Paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuits, the order also clears the way for the litigation to move forward with additional discovery, ending arguments between both sides over how the Short Form Complaints should be structured, and how much information plaintiffs had to provide.

After hearing oral arguments from both sides over plaintiffs’ motion to approve the Short Form Complaint, Judge Fleman rejected most of the defendants’ objections, while ordering plaintiffs to make some changes in the final form. The parties still have to resolve issues of how the objections to the Short Form Complaints should be addressed. Judge Fletman will hear oral arguments over that issue this coming June.

April 2023 Federal Paraquat Lawsuit Update

In the federal Paraquat lawsuits, the MDL judge set an aggressive schedule that originally 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 later this year.

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

While the outcome of these early bellwether trials will not be binding on other claims in the litigation, the amounts of any Paraquat lawsuit payouts is expected to have a large impact on the amounts of any Parkinson’s disease settlements that may be offered to plaintiffs to avoid the need for each individual claim to go before a jury.

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