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Paraquat Litigation Moves Forward

Nationwide Litigation Process for Paraquat Herbicide Poisoning Cases

A consolidated group of personal injury lawsuits related to the effects of the herbicide Paraquat are moving forward in a multi-district litigation process based in the federal district court for the Southern District of Illinois. This is a major step toward the resolution of claims related to Paraquat and its toxicity that have been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease in numerous people nationwide. This Paraquat litigation seeks to establish legally the personal injury connection between Paraquat exposure and the development of debilitating Parkinson’s symptoms.

What is Paraquat?

Paraquat is an organic compound that was first produced in the late 19th century, but which wasn’t synthesized on a large scale until the mid-20th century when its properties as an herbicide were discovered. It was first sold commercially in the early 1960s under the name Gramoxone, and it is still sold under that name by a company called Syngenta, which acquired the original rights to the product. It is a powerful, convenient, and inexpensive herbicide that is very popular with farmers and others practicing large-scale weed control. On the order of 5,000 tons annually is sold just in the United States.

What are the Dangers of Paraquat?

The current Paraquat litigation cases are primarily related to only one of the toxic effects of the herbicide — its connection with the development of Parkinson’s disease in workers who have been exposed to the substance. Long before this link was recognized by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other health organizations it was known that Paraquat had very significant and immediate toxic effects. It is acutely (immediately) toxic when ingested or inhaled, and this toxicity has led to Paraquat being classified as a “restricted use” herbicide in the United States, meaning that only specially trained and licensed individuals are permitted to use the material. Coincidentally, its easy availability, relative low cost, and high toxicity has made Paraquat a “popular” poison used in suicides and murders, especially in some developing countries.  Paraquat also achieved a certain notoriety when 1970s drug eradication efforts in Mexico resulted in the so-called “Paraquat pot.”

Paraquat and Parkinson’s

The scientific and evidentiary basis for personal injury claims being made against the manufacturers of Paraquat connecting it to Parkinson’s disease includes:

  • An NIH study of 2011;
  • Other studies in mammals; and
  • Demographic survey results finding much-elevated levels of Parkinson’s disease in farmers and farmworkers who have been exposed to Paraquat.

Parkinson’s is a long-term, degenerative, neurological disorder that typically leads from minor tremors in the extremities to more widespread loss of body control.  It can also cause cognitive and behavioral problems and even lead to dementia.

What is the Paraquat Litigation MDL?

A Multi-District Litigation (MDL) is a form of court action that is designed to improve the speed and efficiency of large-scale litigation and reduce its overall cost to the courts and to the litigants. Typically, personal injury lawsuits based upon Paraquat poisoning or other similar exposure to toxic materials are filed either on behalf of a single injured person or a smaller number of linked injured persons, or are filed as “class action” lawsuits representing potentially hundreds or thousands of individuals. These lawsuits were filed against Syngenta — the manufacturer of Paraquat — and against Chevron, which earlier held rights to sell the product.

A MDL brings these separate cases together under the management of a single judge with specific attorneys appointed to represent all the joined cases. The Paraquat MDL is managed by Nancy J. Rosenstengel, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The MDL includes more than 170 separate cases (including more than 30 cases just from Northern California), from which fourteen plaintiff’s attorneys were appointed to serve on an executive committee on behalf of all the plaintiffs. The MDL was just formed in late June 2021, so activities are just getting underway, but formation of the MDL is a major step toward — hopefully — a large-scale resolution of Paraquat injury claims.

Watch this YouTube video from ABC News Australia describing the links between Paraquat, agriculture, and Parkinson’s disease:

California Paraquat Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a California Paraquat attorney. Our offices in the Central Valley of California are in one of the regions that see the highest amount of Paraquat use nationwide on the numerous farms and orchards in our area. Farmers and farmworkers are the people most likely to experience Parkinson’s symptoms as a result of long-term exposure to Paraquat. Successfully proving the legal connection between Paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s symptoms requires the full skills and resources of an experienced personal injury attorney. If you or a member of your family experienced exposure to Paraquat and later developed Parkinson’s symptoms, please contact us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 to receive free, friendly advice. Or you can also reach us through our online contact form.

I am honored to be a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

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