Toxic commercial weedkiller fuels new mass tort
As litigation over Bayer AG’s Roundup winds down, another widely used herbicide, paraquat, could fuel a new mass tort, with significant potential liability for ChemChina’s Syngenta Group and Chevron USA.
Paraquat, currently marketed by Syngenta under the brand name Gramoxone and previously sold in partnership with Chevron, has become more popular in recent years, partly thanks to plants becoming resistant to Roundup. The chemical is known to be toxic and is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency only for licensed commercial users. It has been banned altogether across much of the world, including by the European Union, China, and Brazil. The growing number of lawsuits in the United States focus on an alleged link between chronic exposure to paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease, a degenerative brain disease that leads to loss of muscle coordination.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on June 7 created a new MDL for such claims in the Southern District of Illinois, a venue favored by a group of plaintiffs whose lawyers include Mikal Watts of Watts Guerra. As of June 22, 116 lawsuits had been transferred to the MDL, with an additional 10 related cases pending in other federal courts and 31 in state courts.
The venue had been hotly contested, with one group of plaintiffs, represented by lawyers including Ann Saucer of Fears Nachawati favoring the Northern District of California, and another, represented by lawyers including Steven Crick of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, opposing centralization. The panel said that the Southern District of Illinois was appropriate partly because it is in an agricultural region where paraquat was widely used.
The case is In re Paraquat Products Liability Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, No. 21-md-03004.