On October 6, 2017, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Syngenta and Growmark, two manufacturers of the toxic chemical paraquat dichloride. The case sought damages on behalf of agricultural workers and farmers in the agriculture industry that developed Parkinson’s disease after exposure to the strong herbicide. Since the lawsuit started, Chevron Chemical has also been added to the lawsuit as a defendant.
Current Paraquat Lawsuits
In recent years, plaintiffs or injured parties have filed more than 20 lawsuits in six different federal courts located across the U.S., asserting similar reasons for going after Chevron USA, Syngenta, and others producing paraquat. So far, the parties haven’t reached any compensation settlements, and no lawsuits have gone to trial.
In the Rakoczy v. Syngenta Crop Protection LLC, et al. lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the plaintiff alleged that he was “repeatedly exposed to and inhaled, ingested, or absorbed Paraquat” from 2013 to 2017. He was unaware of the link between paraquat and the increased risk of Parkinson’s’s, and he also didn’t realize that exposure to paraquat can cause an increased risk to latent brain injuries, requiring precautionary actions. Doctors diagnosed the plaintiff with Parkinson’s disease around December 1, 2015.
The plaintiff alleged that paraquat has unreasonably dangerous health risks. He also stated in his lawsuit that its design leads to increased inhalation, ingestion, and absorption by farmworkers, making those exposed to paraquat and victims of paraquat poisoning more prone to latent brain damage.
Plaintiffs brought other similar product liability lawsuits under the legal claims of negligence and strict liability premises. Plaintiff James Hemker received his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 2008 after years of occupational exposure to paraquat dichloride products produced by Syngenta and Chevron.
A lawyer for one injured plaintiff, Steve Tillery, claims access to internal documents proving that Syngenta knew of paraquat’s high toxicity risks but still did nothing.
A federal court judge rejected the defendants’ request to dismiss a lawsuit in Missouri. Syngenta and Chevron argued that the federal law related to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations of paraquat use prevents plaintiffs’ claims from having standing. The companies say paraquat is safe for use in agricultural areas as long as “EPA-prescribed precautions are taken and instructions are followed.”
Moreover, they claim that additional labeling requirements would violate the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Still, the district court held that registration approval by the EPA does not dismiss allegations of mislabeling. The court also ruled that EPA approval doesn’t stop failure-to-warn lawsuits brought about by state law.
On April 7, 2021, Plaintiff Paul Rakoczy filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate and transfer the lawsuits against Syngenta and Chevron to the Northern District of California. In the motion, Rakoczy says these actions have common questions of law and facts regarding paraquat-caused Parkinson’s disease. The outcome for this paraquat litigation is still pending.
United States Legislative Push to Ban Paraquat
The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) is pushing for the support of legislation to ban harmful pesticides and herbicides, including paraquat. If passed, the bill named “Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2020 (PACTA)” would be the first comprehensive update to pesticide-use law in decades. It would prohibit the use of paraquat, which experts estimate raises the risk of Parkinson’s by 320%.
If this bill passes, it will help plaintiffs advance their lawsuits against the makers of paraquat.
Are paraquat lawsuits the next Roundup?
Many differences exist between the Roundup lawsuits and the paraquat lawsuits, including:
There are many more Roundup lawsuits.
- The Roundup product supposedly causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- It is hard to pinpoint the causes of Parkinson’s disease and its early stages.
- There have been at least 30,000 claims from users who allege that Roundup made them sick.
- There is a 10-15 year lag between Roundup exposure and the onset of illness, which seems a little longer than the link between Parkinson’s and paraquat.
Law firms can reach potential plaintiffs for the paraquat-Parkinson’s issue by using the marketing services of Consumer Attorney Marketing Group (CAMG). Contact us today to learn how to effectively market your firm and the legal services of your personal injury and product liability lawyers. CAMG also manages media and digital campaigns for RoundUp.
What is paraquat?
Paraquat is a toxic chemical compound used mainly as a plant killer (herbicide), primarily for weeds and grasses. In the U.S., companies create paraquat predominantly in liquid forms, varying in strengths. The EPA categorizes paraquat under “restricted use,” meaning it can only be used by people who are licensed applicators—this applies to commercial use agricultural needs. Brand names like Gramoxone, Firestorm, Helmquat, and Parazone contain paraquat.
Companies produced paraquat for the first time in 1961 for commercial purposes. Paraquat was at the center of public health concerns in the 1970s. With financial help from the U.S. government, drug enforcement authorities in Mexico sprayed many pounds of paraquat on marijuana that later came into the U.S. In the 1980s, Japan reported some suicide and murder scares that involved paraquat.
How is paraquat used?
In the U.S., paraquat is used as an herbicide to control weeds in many farming and non-agricultural environments. Farmers also use paraquat as a defoliant on plants like cotton before the harvest.
Which products use paraquat?
The following list includes paraquat manufacturers and products on the market:
- Para-Shot 3.0
- Helmquat 3SL
- Cyclone SL 2.0
- Ortho Paraquat CL
- AH 501
- Bai Cao Ku
What injuries does paraquat cause?
The amount, route, and duration of exposure determine the degree of paraquat poisoning or health issues. The person’s health at the time of exposure also factors into the equation. Direct damage occurs from paraquat when there’s contact with the stomach, intestines, or the lining of the mouth. After entering the body, paraquat distributes throughout its entirety, mainly affecting the kidneys, liver, and lungs. Paraquat travels by active transport, which causes the lung cells to accumulate selectively. If the average person drinks paraquat, they will suffer immediate pain and swelling in the mouth and throat.
In addition, exposure to paraquat can lead to:
- Abdominal pain
- Fast heart rate
- Diarrhea (which can be bloody)
Severe gastrointestinal problems from paraquat exposure can also cause:
- Low blood pressure
- Low electrolytes
Swallowing paraquat can also result in:
- Heart failure
- Lung scarring
- Esophageal strictures
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Fast heart rate
- Heart injury
- Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
- Damage of nerve cells
- Muscle weakness
- Respiratory failure perhaps leading to death
Symptoms can occur several days to weeks later. If a person survives the side effects of ingesting paraquat, long-term lung damage and scarring are very likely. Someone who swallows a substantial amount of paraquat is not likely to survive.
Also, as these lawsuits demonstrate, paraquat exposure can lead to the development of Parkinson’s disease.
Who's at risk of paraquat injuries?
People most at risk for paraquat injuries, including Parkinson’s disease, are those who are in regular contact with it, including those licensed to use it. These individuals are most likely agricultural workers on large commercial farms because the use of paraquat requires an applicator’s license. Typical homeowners and the general public are not often at risk.
Paraquat and Parkinson's Disease
Paraquat destroys cells through the process of oxidative stress. The restricted-use pesticide alters cell chemistry, leading to cell damage and death. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that develops from the functional loss of the dopamine neuron cells in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc), a small area of the brain. These neurons may have an increased vulnerability to oxidative stress compared to other neurons and are thus more bothered by paraquat—especially for people with genetic precursors. Parkinson’s disease likely develops due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Some studies directly link paraquat exposure to the development of Parkinson’s disease. In one study, researchers found that paraquat exposure may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 600%. The American Journal of Epidemiology, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are some of the organizations that have published research showing a connection between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.
Given the data and the growing number of lawsuits, more injured people will seek to file lawsuits against the manufacturers of paraquat and companies with paraquat products. Our team at CAMG can help you find high-quality leads for your law firm’s paraquat lawsuit attorneys to represent. Contact us through our website or call today to learn how we can help you with your law firm’s marketing efforts.
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