Paraquat Lawsuit Bellwether Trial Begins Next Month

Paraquat is a chemical herbicide that has recently been linked to Parkinson’s disease. A growing number of lawsuits are being filed against the manufacturers of Paraquat by individuals who used or were exposed to the chemical and later diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  Call our Paraquat lawyers today for a free consultation if you have a claim at 800-553-8082.

So far enough Paraquat lawsuits have been filed that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) is expected to create a new class action Paraquat MDL.

Meanwhile, however, one of the earliest Paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuits is going to trial in state court in Illinois. The case, Thomas Hoffman, et al. v. Syngenta Crop Protection LLC, et al., (Case No. 17-L-517), was originally filed back in 2017 in the 20th Judicial Circuit Court for St. Clair County, Illinois.

This case was filed long before there was talk of an MDL class action.  Some smart lawyers saw these were a claim before the rest of us.  Good for them.  After 3 years of civil discovery, the case is now going to trial on June 1, 2021.

The Hoffman trial is being closely watched by everyone on both sides of the developing Paraquat litigation. The proceeding is widely expected to function much like an MDL bellwether trial in that the verdict will likely determine the course of future Paraquat cases.

Facts of the Hoffman Case

The Hoffman case was filed by Thomas Hoffmann and wife Diana Hoffmann in September 2017. The named defendants in the case were Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. (a subsidiary of Chevron Corp.), and Growmark, Inc. Mr. Hoffman was a lifetime resident of Clinton County, Illinois, and he worked on farms his whole life.

Hoffman claimed that he was regularly exposed to Paraquat for a period of over 30 years while farming corn, soybeans, and wheat. Hoffman and his father purchased Paraquat and hired applicators to spray it on their fields from the 1970s to the 1990s. In 1998 Hoffman was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 44.

The Significance of the Hoffman Trial

The Hoffman trial is going to have a huge impact on the Paraquat litigation. When the trial begins next month it will mark the first time witness testimony will be heard in open court addressing the claims that paraquat exposure causes Parkinson’s. The Hoffman trial is even more significant because the JPML is likely to centralize the growing body of paraquat-related lawsuits in federal court into a new class-action MDL in Northern California. A motion requesting the Paraquat MDL is already pending.

Opening statements are set for Monday, June 1, 2021. It will be a bench trial heard by St. Clair County Associate Judge Kevin Hoerner. The trial is expected to take roughly six weeks but could go longer depending on how things play out.

Attorneys for Hoffman are expected to put on a shock and awe-type assault on the evils of Paraquat. The 278-page Complaint in Hoffman goes into lengthy detail about the history of Paraquat, its known toxicity to the human body, and the fact that it has been banned in over 25 countries. But the more important evidence in the case will be the scientific testimony regarding the causal link between Paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s.

If they let this case go to trial, and I doubt it, the defendants are expected to draw an equally hard-line and defend the safety of Paraquat at all costs. The lead defendant, Syngenta, is represented by attorneys from Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s Washington DC and Chicago offices. Syngenta and company have steadfastly maintained that Paraquat is perfectly safe and claim that there is no evidence that it causes Parkinson’s disease. The defense is expected to counter the plaintiffs with their own experts who will dispute every aspect of the scientific studies suggesting the Paraquat causes Parkinson’s.

The fact this is a bench trial rather than a jury trial weighs heavily in favor of the defense. It’s not apparent why the plaintiffs agreed to waive their jury trial right and let Judge Hoerner issue the verdict. One thing that definitely weighs in favor of the plaintiffs, however, is the inherently dangerous and toxic nature of Paraquat.

There is no dispute that Paraquat is one of the most toxic chemicals in the world. Ingesting just a tablespoon of Paraquat can cause death within a few hours. Farmers have been known to use it to commit suicide. The extreme danger of Paraquat has prompted over 25 countries (including Switzerland, where Syngenta is headquartered) to ban Paraquat entirely. This will make defending the safety of Paraquat tremendously difficult.

Did This Paraquat Lawsuit Already Reach a Settlement?

There are unconfirmed rumors that Hoffman has settled.  [2022 Update: we now know that this case ended in a settlement.] This would be, to my knowledge, the first Paraquat settlement.  If so, this is yet another good development on the road to a comprehensive Paraquat class action settlement.

Why?  First, it underscores the defendants were too scared about opening the floodgates.  We just saw in the 3M earplug lawsuits how many victims come forward after a verdict.  So many victims in the Paraquat litigation have not connected the dots between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.

So this settlement increases the likelihood that the Paraquat class action lawsuit will settle sooner rather than later, maybe without a single MDL trial.  Is this a sure thing? Of course not. It is speculation. Heck, I have not even been able to confirm this Paraquat settlement yet. But we don’t even have a certified Paraquat class action yet. All we can do is read tea leaves and speculate.

Contact Miller & Zois About a Paraquat Lawsuit

If you worked on a farm or lived near a farm where Paraquat (Gramoxone) was regularly used, and you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you may be able to file a Paraquat lawsuit and receive financial compensation. Call our Paraquat attorneys today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082.

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