What is Happening with the Paraquat Lawsuits?

Paraquat is a commercial-grade herbicide used in the agriculture industry. Over the last decade, new scientific research has shown that frequent use or exposure to Paraquat can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. This discovery has prompted thousands of Paraquat lawsuits by individuals who used or were around Paraquat in an occupation setting and subsequently developed Parkinson’s disease.

The Paraquat lawsuits were consolidated into a class action MDL in the Southern District of Illinois (In re: Paraquat Prod. Liab. Lit. – 3:21-MD-3004).  The Paraquat MDL is now heading into its 3rd year and 2024 could potentially be a pivotal year for this mass tort. The first round of bellwether test trials were basically canceled after the MDL Judge excluded most of the plaintiffs’ key expert witness testimony. Now the parties are quickly preparing a new group of test cases for bellwether trials, which probably won’t happen until early 2025 (or even later).

This page talks about where this litigation is in June 2024, and what we can expect moving forward.

Paraquat Lawsuits

Let’s first talk about about what these lawsuits are about. Paraquat is a powerful chemical that is widely used as a herbicide in the commercial farming industry. Paraquat is banned in most countries. In the U.S., Paraquat is available only to licensed applications (usually farmers) and it is tightly regulated. Despite these restrictions, Paraquat is the most widely used herbicide in U.S. agriculture.

Paraquat is manufactured by the Swiss agrochemical company Syngenta. In the U.S., Paraquat is often sold under the brand name Gramoxone. It has a distinctive blue color and is applied through spray applicators.

Since the early 2000s, a stream of scientific studies and articles have consistently found that long-term, frequent exposure to Paraquat can significantly increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Today, there is a well-developed body of scientific evidence establishing a clear link between Paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease.

The discovery of the link between Paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease led to a growing wave of Paraquat lawsuits. The Paraquat lawsuits are being brought by individuals (primarily current or former farm workers) who used Paraquat or were regularly exposed to it and later diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The plaintiffs in these Paraquat lawsuits allege that Syngenta (and other defendants) knew about the Parkinson’s disease risk for years and never did anything about it.


Paraquat Class Action MDL

The Paraquat lawsuits started getting filed in large numbers in 2020. In June 2021, the Paraquat lawsuits in the federal courts were consolidated into a new class action MDL in the Southern District of Illinois. The MDL was assigned to Judge Nancy Rosenstengel.

The Paraquat MDL grew slowly for the first 6 months, but in 2022 and 2023 Paraquat was one of the most active mass torts in the country. During that 2 year period, an average of nearly 300 new cases were being added to the Paraquat MDL each month. The MDL tripled in size in 2022, then doubled in size in the first half of 2023.

Growth in the MDL has slowed down considerably in 2024, but new cases are still being filed. In addition to the federal court Paraquat lawsuits consolidated in the MDL, there are a large number of Paraquat lawsuits pending in Illinois state court. These cases have been consolidated into a state court version of an MDL.

Paraquat Litigation Shifts Focus to Philadelphia in 2024

Outside of the federal court MDL, the focus of the Paraquat litigation in 2024 has shifted toward Pennsylvania state court in Philadelphia. Since the start of 2024, the number of Paraquat cases pending in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has increased by over 50%. There are now over 700 Paraquat cases consolidated into a Pennsylvania state court version of an MDL before Judge Joshua Roberts.

There are two main reasons for this shift in focus to Philadelpia. First, Phildelphia is a notoriously plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction where mass tort cases generate big verdicts. We have seen in other mass torts recently that lawsuits filed in Philadelphia state courts tend to achieve better outcomes than those in the MDL.

The second reason for the shift to state court in Philadelphia is that Paraquat lawyers are uneasy following Judge Rosenstengel’s ruling, which dismissed a key plaintiffs’ expert and four bellwether cases, leading to a pause in trial scheduling and just a concern about how the judge views the science in these lawsuits.

Paraquat Bellwether Trials in 2024?

After the Paraquat MDL was established, Judge Rosenstengel established a bellwether test trial program. A pool of 16 potential bellwether candidate cases was selected from the pending MDL docket. These cases then went through the discovery phase, and four out of the 16 cases have been selected for the first round of bellwether trials.

The bellwether discovery phase was finished by the Summer of 2022 and the 4 initial bellwether trial cases were selected, and then we got a series of significant and seemingly continuous delays. The first bellwether test trial was originally supposed to happen in November 2022, with a second trial set for March 2023. That schedule seemed pretty solid until in August 2022 Judge Rosenstengel pushed the start of the first test trial back 7 months to July 2023. Then the July date got pushed to October 2023. But then that date got pushed back to give the judge more time to rule on the Daubert motions regarding the admissibility of expert testimony.

When the Daubert ruling eventually came down in April 2024, it resulted in the dismissal of all the cases selected for the first bellwether trials. So now a whole new group of bellwether test cases is being selected and rushed through an expedited discovery process. This means there is zero chance that we will see the first bellwether trial before the end of 2024.

Paraquat Daubert Challenges

In September 2023, Judge Rosenstengel held extensive hearings on the Daubert motions filed by both sides to challenge the admissibility of the expert testimony on the issue of causation. Then she pushed back the date of the first test trial to give herself more time to prepare her ruling. Then for months everyone eagerly awaiting the outcome.

Finally, in April 2024, Judge Rosenstengel finally issued her ruling on the expert challenges and it proved to be a major and unexpected setback for the plaintiffs. In 99-page written opinion, Judge Rosenstengel held that testimony from the plaintiffs’ key expert witness was not admissible, resulting in the dismissal of all four of the cases selected for the first round of bellwether trials.

Fortunately, this was not the end of the litigation for any other cases than the four set for trial.  The judge told the parties to select 16 new bellwether cases for a mini-reset.

When Can We Expect a Paraquat Settlement?

Due to the contention over the issue of causation, we don’t expect to see a global settlement in the Paraquat litigation until after the first round of bellwether trials get closer. After their partial victory in the Daubert motions, Syngenta and the other Paraquat defendants are probably looking for more leverage in the settlement negotiations. For their part, the plaintiffs’ Paraquat lawyers are hoping that big verdicts in the initial test trials will boost their negotiating leverage and drive up the valuation of these cases.  The question is will the defendant let a case go to trial.  My bet is no… but it remains to be seen.

In our view, the best-case scenario is that we get very big verdicts in the first two bellwether trials and the defendants waive the white flag and begin settlement negotiations. Big verdict will drive up settlement payouts.  This is a pattern we have seen in a many other mass tort MDLs and it seems a likely outcome here if the defendants do not offer real money before the first trial.

We think these lawsuits will settle in 2025. When in 2025 will that be?  That is anyone’s guess.

How Much Will the Paraquat Settlement Be?

Our attorneys estimate that the total dollar amount of the Paraquat settlement will be around $1 billion. A certain percentage of this will be set aside to cover future claims and the rest will be used to resolve existing claims. Between the cases in the MDL and the state court cases, there will probably be around 3,000 – 3,500 active cases covered by the settlement.

A $1 billion settlement would work out to around $500,000 per plaintiff (without factoring in any set aside for future claims). This doesn’t mean that every Paraquat plaintiff will get $500,000. The settlement deal will probably adopt a tiered system in which cases are ranked based on various factors.  This is actually an increase of $100,000 over our prior predictions.  Our lawyers believe strong cases in this litigation will settle for a lot of money.

The factors that will most likely impact the value of individual Paraquat cases will be the extent of the plaintiff’s exposure, their age at the time of the Parkinson’s diagnosis, and the severity of their Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

Contact Our Paraquat Attorneys Today

If you believe your worked around Paraquat and were later diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, call us today at (800) 553-8082 to discuss your legal options. You can also get a free case evaluation online.


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