A late October hearing signaled movement toward trial for plaintiffs demanding compensation from the makers of paraquat weed killer, reports US Right to Know. U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel of the Southern District of Illinois prompted attorneys in more than 380 cases to begin assessing plaintiffs. This process will involve clients completing questionnaires and producing medical records, along with other relevant documentation.
U.S. District Judge Gets the Ball Rolling on Paraquat Trials
Rosenstengel indicated that attorneys should prepare for a bellwether trial to take place in around one year’s time. The first plaintiff(s) have yet to be selected.
The judge also requested that attorneys working on both sides try to coordinate with paraquat lawsuits pending in state courts. As of this writing, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington have such cases pending.
On October 27, 2021, Rosenstengel ordered the defendants to preserve and produce internal documents and relevant materials. The documents will be given to MDL attorneys for the plaintiffs.
Understanding the Paraquat MDL
Current paraquat cases have been moved to multidistrict litigation (MDL), which Rosenstengel oversees. MDL consolidates and transfers individual lawsuits that share a common question of fact, and which have been filed in federal courts throughout the U.S.
For strictly the purpose of discovery proceedings, pretrial motions, and settlement talks, Rosenstengel is managing the litigation of the consolidated paraquat cases to streamline what would otherwise be an extremely complex and drawn-out process.
Cases can either be settled or dismissed during MDL. Rosenstengel will send Paraquat cases that do not meet with either end back to their original courts for trial. If future plaintiffs come forth with lawsuits against Syngenta, they, too will transfer as tag-along cases to the MDL in the Southern District of Illinois.
Rosenstengel could try to persuade the MDL parties to agree to a global settlement. This means that the terms of the settlement would apply to all MDL claims.
Significance of the Paraquat Bellwether Trials
The paraquat bellwether trials that Rosenstengel is planning for next year will help attorneys on both sides determine the effectiveness of their legal arguments and the possible range of damages they can expect at trial. Typically, bellwether trials that end in the plaintiffs’ favor will motivate defendants to negotiate settlements with the plaintiffs who remain.
More on the Defendants in Paraquat Cases
Defendants in the paraquat lawsuits include Syngenta, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP, and Chevron USA, Inc.
On the same day that Rosenstengel announced the upcoming bellwether trial, Chevron USA revealed that the plaintiffs’ co-counsel had agreed to dismiss Chevron USA from litigation. According to Chevron’s filed stipulation, the company ceased its distribution of paraquat in 1986. Furthermore, the corporation transferred its paraquat registrations to another entity.
Basis of the Paraquat Lawsuits
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, once inside the human body, paraquat can move to various areas, causing chemical reactions. The CDC further cautioned that even small- and medium-sized quantities of the weed killer, when ingested, can lead to kidney failure.
The causal connection between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease can be traced back to the 1980s. Research in Southern California revealed that paraquat shared the same chemical structure as a heroin contaminant (MPTP). This contaminant was found to destroy the same neurons that are damaged in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Since this experiment, vast amounts of research have indicated a causal link between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.
The plaintiffs in the paraquat lawsuits claim that the defendants either knew or should have known the health risks from exposure to the herbicide.