Lawsuits Filed Against Syngenta AG Claim Paraquat Exposure Caused Parkinson’s

In the first nine days of April, Syngenta AG, Syngenta Crop Protection LLC (collectively, Syngenta) and Chevron U.S.A. Inc. have had multiple lawsuits filed against them in regards to the herbicide paraquat, alleging that exposure to the herbicide caused the plaintiffs to suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

In an exemplary case, filed in the Northern District of California, a plaintiff sued the defendants alleging that he “suffers from Parkinson’s disease caused by his exposure to the herbicide Paraquat.” The complaint noted that Parkinson’s disease is “a progressive neurodegenerative disorder of the brain that affects primarily the motor system – the part of the central nervous system that controls movement.”

According to the complaint, Syngenta and Chevron have “manufactured, distributed, licensed, marketed, and sold Paraquat for use in the United States” since 1964. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants engaged in “tortious conduct,” such as “their negligent acts and omission in the research, testing, design, manufacture, marketing, and sale of Paraquat,” which harmed the plaintiff. The plaintiff proffered that Syngenta and Chevron “should have known that Paraquat was a highly toxic substance that can cause severe neurological injuries and impairment, and should have taken steps in their research, manufacture, and sale of Paraquat to ensure that people would not be harmed by foreseeable uses of Paraquat.”

The plaintiff alleged that he worked in the agricultural business, working for or as a certified herbicide applicator, thus he was purportedly “exposed to Paraquat from approximately 1972 until approximately 2005,” specifically for: “(1) when it was mixed, loaded, applied, and/or cleaned; (2) as a result of spray drift (the movement of herbicide spray droplets from the target area to an area where herbicide application was not intended, typically by wind); and/or (3) as a result of contact with sprayed plants.” The plaintiff asserted that it was reasonably foreseeable that when paraquat was used as intended or in a “reasonably foreseeable manner” users or people nearby would be exposed to it.

Paraquat can purportedly enter the body through: “absorption or penetration of the skin, mucous membranes, and other epithelial tissues,” “the olfactory bulb,” “respiration into the lungs,” and “ingestion into the digestive tract of small droplets swallowed after entering the mouth, nose, or conducting airways.” The plaintiff proffered that as a result, it was reasonably foreseeable that parquat entering the body could eventually enter the brain and “induce the misfolding of the alpha synuclein protein,” purportedly resulting in Parkinson’s disease. The plaintiff alleged that scientists have known since the 1960s that Paraquat is toxic to plant and animal cells. The complaint detailed the ways in which it is toxic and how it impacts bodily processes.

The plaintiff added that under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and California law, parquat is a restricted pesticide or material. Subsequently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires a variety of tests in order to evaluate exposure toxicity and other adverse effects as part of its pesticide registration process. However, the plaintiff suggested that the herbicide is misbranded under these regulations because despite a registration it can still be misbranded if “its label contains ‘false or misleading’ statements, has inadequate instructions for use, or omits warnings or cautionary statements necessary to protect human health” or when it causes unreasonable adverse effects despite an EPA determination that said effects would not happen. Accordingly, the plaintiff averred that Parquat is misbranded for failing to disclose or warn that exposure could cause Parkinson’s or other health implications, for example.

The causes of action are strict products liability design defect, strict products liability for failure to warn, negligence, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and punitive damages.

The plaintiff seeks an award for damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, an award for costs and fees, and other relief.

The plaintiff is represented by Andrus Wagstaff PC.

Syngenta and Chevron also faced a suit in February over the use of parquat.