Paraquat Plaintiffs Selected for Full Trial Work Up Will Submit to Defense Medical Exams for Neurological Injuries

Defense medical examiners are allowed to probe any aspect of the Paraquat plaintiffs' medical history which could be connected to the neurological injuries raised in the lawsuit

As a small group of Paraquat lawsuits continue to be prepared for early trial dates scheduled to begin later this year, the Court has outlined protocols for medical exams each plaintiff must undergo to allow the defendants to evaluate the claims for neurological damage and Parkinson’s disease caused by the controversial weedkiller.

There are currently hundreds of product liability lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system against Syngenta and Chevron; which manufactured and sold Paraquat-based herbicides widely used on farms and other green spaces throughout the United States for decades.

Each of the claims raise similar allegations that the companies failed to adequately warn about the link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, which research has found may develop years after regularly spaying, mixing, transporting or handling the weed killer.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the litigation, the federal cases have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation, where the parties selected a small group of 16 “bellwether” claims, which are going through case-specific discovery in preparation for a series of four Paraquat jury trials that will be held between November 2022 and the end of 2023.

Last month, Judge Rosenstengal ordered that each of the Paraquat plaintiffs selected for a full work up must submit to a defense medical examination, and this week the Court issued the Protocol (PDF) for these exams, which plaintiffs and defendants each agreed to.

The protocol calls for defendants to provide plaintiff’s counsel and the MDL co-lead counsel for plaintiffs with the details of the examiner for each plaintiff at least five days before an examination, and indicates that the parties will work together to schedule the exam. Each examiner must be no further than 50 miles away from where the plaintiff resides.

Each of the Paraquat medical exams will be limited to reviewing the impact of neurological injuries, such as Parkinson’s disease, but allows the examiners to ask a wide array of questions about the plaintiffs habits and anything that may impact the plaintiff’s neurological condition. However, the examiners can not ask the plaintiffs about their exposure to Paraquat; which has already been provided to the defendants during depositions and discovery.

The initial group of Paraquat plaintiffs selected for the bellwether discovery pool has been reduced to six cases that will be eligible for the first trial dates.

According to a prior scheduling order issued by the Court, it is expected that all fact discovery and expert depositions in these bellwether cases will be completed in the coming weeks, with dispositive motions, challenges to the admissibility of expert witness testimony or summary judgment motions due over the summer.

A final pre-trial conference is currently scheduled to take place on October 27, and the first Paraquat jury trials are currently set to begin on November 15, 2022, March 13, 2023, June 12, 2023 and September 18, 2023.

While the outcome of these bellwether trials will not have any binding impact on other plaintiffs, they are expected to greatly influence any Paraquat settlement offers the manufacturers may make to avoid each case later being remanded back for separate trial dates in U.S. District Courts nationwide.

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