Paraquat Toxicity Lawsuit Filed By Agricultural Worker Diagnosed With Parkinson’s Disease

Nine years of exposure to Paraquat weed killers had a toxic impact, causing the development and diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, according to the complaint.

A product liability lawsuit filed by an Arizona man claims Syngenta and Chevron have failed to protect agricultural workers from Paraquat toxicity, which led to his development of Parkinson’s disease.

Thomas Quaka and his wife, Sara, filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on December 28, indicating that users of the herbicide have not been provided adequate directions or warnings about the potential side effects.

Paraquat has been widely used on farms throughout the United States since the mid-1960s, to control weeds and long grass. However, a growing body of research has established that Paraquat is toxic and may cause Parkinson’s disease diagnoses among farmers and others in the agricultural industry, even when all of the manufacturer’s recommended safety precautions were followed.

According to the lawsuit, Quaka was repeatedly exposed to Paraquat while spraying the weed killer on 500 acres of farm fields in Illinois from 1964 to 1973. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2020.

Like numerous similar lawsuits filed in recent months, Quaka indicates he was never told about the risk of neurological damage which could be caused by Paraquat.

“No doctor or any other person told Plaintiff Thomas Quaka that his Parkinson’s disease was or could have been caused by exposure to Paraquat,” the lawsuit notes. “At not time when using Paraquat himself was Plaintiff Thomas Quaka aware that exposure to Paraquat could cause any latent injury, including any neurological injury or Parkinson’s disease, or that any precautions were necessary to prevent any latent injury that could be caused by exposure to Paraquat.”

Paraquat Parkinson’s Litigation

The case joins dozens of similar Paraquat toxicity lawsuits now filed in courts throughout the U.S., each raising similar allegations that the manufacturers withheld information about the risk of Parkinson’s disease that may result from mixing, spraying, handling or even being in proximity to the herbicide.

While genetics are often believed to be a major cause of Parkinson’s disease, growing research indicates genes are only associated with about one-in-ten cases. Exposure to herbicides and pesticides are increasingly considered a leading risk, especially when combined with other factors that place individuals at risk of the development of Parkinson’s.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed throughout the U.S., the federal Paraquat litigation has been centralized before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

As part of the coordinated federal litigation, a federal judge has indicated that a series of “bellwether” trials will be held to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims. However, if Paraquat settlements or another resolution for the litigation is not reached, each individual case may later be returned to the home district where it was originally filed for a future trial.

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