Paraquat Statute of Limitations, Other Defenses Raised in Motion to Dismiss Filed By Chevron

Chevron, U.S.A. has filed a motion to dismiss claims raised in a large number of Paraquat lawsuits, arguing that claims the company is responsible for Parkinson’s disease diagnosed after exposure to the weedkiller should be barred by some states’ statutes of limitations, and other defenses that should preclude individual plaintiffs from obtaining a settlement or recovery.

There are currently about 290 product liability lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system against Chevron and Syngenta, who manufactured and sold Paraquat-based herbicides at various times over the past six decades. Each of the complaints raise similar allegations that farmers and others in the agricultural industry were not adequately warned about the link between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, and the size of the litigation is expected to continue to grow over the next year, as more individuals contact lawyers and file claims.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the lawsuits, the federal Paraquat Parkinson’s litigation is centralized before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

On September 13, Chevron U.S.A. filed a motion to dismiss (PDF) claims alleging use of Paraquat after the company stopped distributing the product, public nuisance claims raised in certain complaints, and lawsuits the company argues should be bared by statutes of repose or statutes of limitations.

Chevron indicates it stopped selling and distributing Paraquat in 1986, yet points out that the company has been named as a defendant even in claims where plaintiffs indicate that they started using the product after 1990, when Chevron argues it is “implausible” that exposures were caused by Paraquat products sold by Chevron.

According to a memorandum (PDF) in support of the motion to dismiss, Chevron argues that the Paraquat statute of limitations and statute of repose should prevent claims filed in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Connecticut, which all have laws that limit the time in which one can file a lawsuit following the sale of a product, regardless of when injury happened or when plaintiffs learned of a connection between their injuries and Paraquat use. In addition, Chevron also claim many of the lawsuits are time barred in Alabama, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska and New York, claiming these states bar the filing of lawsuits based on the amount of time following an injury, regardless of when plaintiffs discovered a connection between the use of Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.

The motion also seeks to dismiss any public nuisance claims, arguing that the sale of lawful products are not recognized as public nuisance by the Courts, and to dismiss warranty claims in Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin; stating that those states limit warranty claims based on the time of sale.

Plaintiffs have yet to file a response to the motion, and Judge Rosenstengel has not indicated when the Court may consider or rule on the motion. However, if successful, it may result in Chevron being dismissed as a defendant from most, if not all, Paraquat lawsuits filed by former users diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the growing litigation brought against both Chevron and Syngenta, Judge Rosenstengel has previously indicated that a series of early Paraquat trial dates expected to begin by November 2022, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims.

Evidence of Parkinson’s Disease Risk from Paraquat

Paraquat has been widely used on farms and within the agricultural industry for decades, to control weeds and long grass. It is sold exclusively through farming and agricultural supply stores under a number of brand names, including Gramoxone, Blanco, Cyclone, Bonedry and others.

Since it is known to be toxic and users face a risk of Paraquat poisoning if even a small amount of the herbicide is ingested, the herbicide is only available in the United States under a program that requires users to go through a training program on the safe handling of the herbicide. However, plaintiffs allege the manufacturers failed to warn about the risk that Paraquat may cause Parkinson’s disease and other neurological injuries, even when the recommended precautions are taken.

In 2012, researchers from UCLA found a link between pesticide use and a risk of developing Parkinson’s, indicating that individuals who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and were exposed to Paraquat were three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Another study published in May 2013 found yet another link between pesticide exposure and an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, indicating that pesticide exposure may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s by 60 percent.

That study also found the risk increased with exposure to any type of pesticide, herbicide or solvent; but exposure to specific chemicals doubled the risk. Chemicals used in the test included Paraquat, Maneb and other pesticides.

In March 2016, the EPA announced it would be re-evaluating the health risks with Paraquat, and a number of health experts and consumer advocacy groups have called on the agency to remove Paraquat-based herbicides from the market in the U.S. However, it continues to be used by farmers and other industries for weed and grass control, potentially exposing individuals handling, mixing or applying the Paraquat to life-long health risks.

Parkinson’s disease affects more than 500,000 Americans, with approximately 50,000 new cases each year. The disease causes the loss of motor functions, causing imbalance and shaking, which gets progressively worse over time.

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