Filed April 7, 2021 with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, the motion says at least 14 lawsuits have been filed by eight different law firms in six different U.S. federal courts. All the suits are filed for plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. All allege exposure to Syngenta’s weed killers made with a chemical called paraquat. Several other cases filed in state courts make the same allegations.
A legal brief for the action stated: “The cases are excellent candidates for coordinated pretrial proceedings because they arise from the same poisonous toxin causing the same crippling disease resulting from the wrongful conduct of the same three defendants. [We] expect that the number of similar cases filed in state and federal courts across the country will expand rapidly.”
The motion seeks transfer to Judge Edward Chen in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
One lawyer predicted litigation in dozens of federal courts across the country.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys will seek internal corporate documents and depositions of corporate officials related to the “testing, design, labeling, marketing, and safety of paraquat herbicides,” according to the motion. They will also seek corporate research and evaluations of the toxicity and safety of Syngenta’s paraquat products.
“We are confident that science strongly supports the causal connection between paraquat and the devastation of Parkinson’s disease,” said attorney Mike Miller. “The Northern District of California is well equipped to handle these cases.”
The cases against Syngenta also name another defendant, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company. Chevron distributed and sold Gramoxone paraquat products in the US following an agreement with a Syngenta predecessor, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), which introduced paraquat-based Gramoxone in 1962. Under a license agreement, Chevron had the right to make, use, and sell paraquat formulations in the U.S.
Syngenta and Chevron deny the allegations.
Owned by China National Chemical Corporation ChemChina, Syngenta says that its paraquat products have been approved as “safe and effective” for more than 50 years. Syngenta said it will “vigorously” defend the lawsuits.
Parkinson’s is an incurable progressive disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain. Advanced cases can lead to severe physical debilitation and dementia. Many experts say Parkinson’s can be caused by a spectrum of factors, including exposure to pesticides – like paraquat – as well as other chemicals.
Several scientific studies have linked paraquat to Parkinson’s, including a large study of U.S. farmers jointly overseen by several U.S. government agencies. That 2011 research reported that people who used paraquat were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as people who did not use it.
“Numerous epidemiological and animal studies have linked paraquat to Parkinson’s disease,” said Ray Dorsey, a professor of neurology and director of the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics at University of Rochester in New York. Mr. Dorsey is also the author of a book about Parkinson’s disease prevention and treatment.
“The evidence linking paraquat to Parkinson’s disease is probably the strongest of any pesticide commonly used,” he said.
Some studies have not found clear links between paraquat and Parkinson’s. Syngenta claims that the most recent and authoritative research shows no connection. A study published in 2020 found connections between some other pesticides and Parkinson’s, but no strong evidence showing paraquat causes Parkinson’s.
One case filed in a state court is scheduled to go to trial in May 2021. Hoffman V. Syngenta is scheduled for trial beginning May 10 in St. Clair County Circuit Court in Illinois.
Missouri lawyer Steve Tillery, who represents the Hoffman case plaintiffs as well as several others in other paraquat lawsuits, said he has accumulated evidence that includes internal Syngenta records which show the company has known for decades that its product causes Parkinson’s Disease.