What is Paraquat?
Paraquat is the active ingredient in the herbicide (weed killer) Gramoxone, manufactured by Syngenta AG. A number of other companies also produce paraquat-based herbicides.
Paraquat has been widely used in farming in the United States for decades, though sale of the substance has been banned in Europe since 2007. It remains a popular solution for farmers because it is relatively low-cost and works to kill off a wide range of unwanted vegetation. It’s used in pre-planting “burn down” and in harvesting.
Paraquat is highly toxic, and is classified as a restricted use herbicide. Because the substance can damage skin and eyes on contact and accidental consumption of even a tiny amount can be fatal, among other concerns, certification is required to apply the herbicide.
What’s Wrong with Paraquat?
In addition to the risks described above, multiple studies across the past several years have suggested a link between paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease. In 2009, an early study concluded that use of paraquat and another substance (maneb) within 500 meters (about 547 yards) of a person’s home increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 75%. Either substance alone significantly increased risk in those aged 60 and under.
In 2011, researchers reported that the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease was about 2.5 times as high in those who used paraquat compared with those who did not. But, these new discoveries did not trigger a decrease in the use of paraquat. In fact, the amount of the substance used annually in the United States doubled between 2013 and 2017.
Various types of paraquat exposure are also associated with several other medical conditions, including lung damage, kidney failure, heart failure, and thyroid disorders in women.
Mitigating Paraquat Risks
In 2015, the annual Agricultural Health Study reported that daily use of gloves and on-site hygiene measures could significantly reduce the risks associated with paraquat exposure. In the years since, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has increased safety requirements, including restricting the amount of paraquat that can be applied to certain crops, imposing a residential buffer zone for aerial application, imposing a waiting period for re-entry to fields that have been treated with paraquat, and requiring manufacturers to include spray drift management information on labels.
Who is at Risk of Paraquat-Related Parkinson’s Disease?
Those most at risk include farmers and other agricultural workers who have been directly involved in the application of paraquat or have worked in the area where application is occurring. While paraquat is used in many settings, some of the most common include farming of corn, soybeans, and cotton. But, the risk isn’t limited to those applying the chemicals, or even those actually on the farm. Because sprayed pesticides drift, those living near farms where paraquat is applied can also be at risk.
Paraquat is used all over the country, but usage is higher in some areas than others. Some of the states with the highest paraquat usage include California, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, South Dakota, North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas.
More than 300 paraquat lawsuits have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. All federal paraquat Parkinson’s disease cases are being consolidated into the MDL, regardless of where in the country the plaintiff lives or the exposure occurred.
MDL helps to simplify and speed up the process when a large number of plaintiffs are bringing similar claims against a single defendant or group of defendants. In MDL, many pre-trial issues impacting all or many of the individual cases are resolved together. In a technical case, the MDL court will often hold a “science day,” when the parties educate the court about the scientific issues in the cases. This saves time for the court and allows the cases to move forward more efficiently.
Then, a small number of cases are set for trial. These cases–called “bellwether cases”–aren’t chosen at random. The plaintiffs and the defense team each play a role in selecting these early cases. The outcome of the bellwether cases gives both sides a better idea of what to expect as additional cases are tried, which can make it easier to settle many of the claims without going to trial.
Some claims have also been filed in state courts.
Paraquat MDL Status
As of December 5, 2021, the paraquat MDL is still in its early stages. New cases are steadily being added to the MDL. The court has ordered the plaintiffs and the defense each to select four suggested cases for trial by December 15. The same order includes a schedule for discovery, pre-trial motions, and other pre-trial matters leading up to the first scheduled bellwether trial on November 15, 2022.
The court has also scheduled three additional bellwether trials for March 13, June 12 and September 18 of 2023.
What is a Paraquat Parkinson’s Disease Case Worth?
Since the bellwether cases haven’t yet been tried, there’s no benchmark for the amount of award that might be expected in a paraquat case. And, every case is different: the amount of compensation available may depend on factors like how sick the plaintiff is, the age at onset of Parkinson’s disease, the cost of medical care and other assistance, and any interruption of earning capacity. Compensation may also be available for non-economic losses such as loss of enjoyment of life.
The best way to learn more about whether you may have a claim for damages due to paraquat exposure and what type of compensation you may be entitled to is to speak with a qualified paraquat litigation attorney.
We know how important it is for people who have been injured or suffered illness because of someone else’s products to have access to reliable information about their rights and options. We’re here to make it as easy as possible for you to connect with an attorney who handles paraquat litigation and can answer your questions. Just fill out the form on this page. We’ll get you in touch with an attorney in your area right away.
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Paraquat has been banned or its use severely restricted in dozens of countries around the world. But, some of those countries still allow manufacture and export of the substance to countries with laxer regulations, like the United States and many developing nations....
As of December 5, 2021, 319 cases have been consolidated in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The number of cases continues to grow, and it’s not clear just how many plaintiffs there may be. Initially,...