Syngenta and Chevron were hit with six more suits in federal courts in California, Illinois and Pennsylvania over allegations that the herbicide paraquat causes Parkinson’s disease, as the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation prepares to decide whether to consolidate the litigation.
The Pennsylvania suits are the first ones filed in the state over paraquat, according to the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. All the suits allege that Syngenta and Chevron knew about the dangers of paraquat for at least 40 years but hid evidence of its risks from the government and deliberately released a product they knew caused Parkinson’s disease.
These filings are only the tip of the iceberg with what is expected to be the next major mass tort. The manufacturers of paraquat knew for decades that their product was linked to Parkinson’s disease yet chose to hide this information from regulators and the public.
Jeffrey P. Goodman of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky PC said in a statement.
There are currently 62 cases pending in 12 districts over paraquat, according to an April 29 filing by Syngenta to the JPML.
The plaintiffs in these cases allege that they developed Parkinson’s disease after many years of exposure to the herbicide, which is used to kill weeds in fields before the planting of crops. The substance is banned in the European Union but is sold with restrictions in the U.S.
For example, Stanley Copas ran an Indiana farm from the late 1970s to 2007, where paraquat was sprayed on the fields, according to his Pennsylvania complaint.
“From the late 1970s, plaintiff Stanley Copas was repeatedly exposed to and inhaled, ingested and absorbed paraquat while he was mixing, loading and spraying defendants’ paraquat products and while he was in fields after they were sprayed,” Copas said.
That exposure led to his 2016 diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 65, Copas said.
The other plaintiffs also worked on farms, except for John Milling, who flew crop dusters in California during the 1970s and 1980s, according to the complaints.
They all argue that the scientific community “overwhelmingly agrees” that the herbicide causes Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is only known to occur naturally in humans, but research on the disease is often performed on laboratory animals that are artificially induced to show features characteristic of the disease, the suits say.
Paraquat is one of only a handful of toxins that scientists use to produce animal models of Parkinson’s disease
In mid-April, two plaintiffs pushed for consolidation of the suits over paraquat, with one saying the suits should be sent to the Northern District of California, as they all arise from exposure to the same toxin that allegedly caused the same disease, and all plaintiffs are likely to seek much of the same discovery.
Another plaintiff agreed about consolidation but told the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation that the lawsuits should be transferred to the Southern District of Illinois, as it would be a more geographically central location for different parties scattered throughout the country.
Last week, Syngenta and Chevron said they were not opposed to consolidation, but proposed the alternative venue of the Eastern District of Missouri because its geographical location is accessible to all parties.
Additionally, the Northern District of California is the busiest MDL forum as it is already seeing 20 MDLs, Syngenta said.
A representative for Syngenta did not immediately respond to request for comment Monday.
“Chevron sympathizes with families affected by Parkinson’s disease,” a Chevron spokesman told Law360. “We do not believe that the former Chevron Chemical Company, which ceased its business over 30 years ago, had any role in causing the plaintiffs’ illnesses and we will vigorously defend against the allegations in the lawsuits.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Mark DiCello of DiCello Levitt Guntzler, Jeffrey P. Goodman and Lawrence Cohan of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky PC and C. Calvin Warriner III of Searcy Denne.
Counsel information for Syngenta and Chevron was not immediately available Monday.
The cases are Milling v. Syngenta Crop Protection LLC et al., case number 3:21-cv-03233, and Parsons v. Syngenta Crop Protection LLC et al., case number 3:21-cv-03229, in the Northern District of California, Shea v. Syngenta Crop Protection LLC et al., case number 3:21-cv-00439, in the Southern District of Illinois, Crane v. Syngenta Crop Protection LLC et al., case number 2:21-cv-01996, and Copas v. Syngenta Crop Protection LLC et al., case number 2:21-cv-02013, and Friday v. Syngenta Crop Protection LLC et al., case number 2:21-cv-02016, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.