Paraquat Litigation Removed to State Court

Defendants Syngenta Crop Protection LLC and Chevron U.S.A. Inc. have filed a notice of removal in a suit against them, relocating the case to federal from state court. The defendants, along with United States Sugar Corporation, were sued by plaintiffs Walter Parker and Linda Parker in early August for failing to disclose the harmful effects of an herbicide they manufactured, paraquat.

Paraquat is a widely used herbicide that is used by farmers to protect corn, cotton, and other crops from invasive weeds. In addition to protection, the chemical reduces soil erosion, protects soil health, and combats the effects of climate change. Recently, paraquat litigation has increased because of its potentially harmful effect. The herbicide allegedly is connected with Parkinson’s disease. Producers across the country have been accused of neglect, failure to warn of potential harm, and violations of implied warranties.

In May 2018, plaintiff Walter Parker was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease after he was “exposed to, breathed, ingested and/or absorbed paraquat” when working with the Defendant’s paraquat products. He asserts that he “relied upon the Defendants to instruct him and those working around him regarding the proper methods of handling the products, being unaware of the dangerous properties of paraquat.”

The complaint charged the defendants with negligence, citing that they had a duty to inform the plaintiff of the risks of paraquat. The plaintiffs also raised counts of strict liability, tort exception to worker’s compensation immunity, and loss of consortium. The plaintiffs sought substantial damages to make up for the decreased life expectancy, mental anguish, and medical treatment that the defendants had imposed on them.

This suit is one in an abundance of cases that have been filed against defendants Syngenta and Chevron, all of which allege Parkinson’s disease based on past exposure to paraquat. The suits have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Southern District of Illinois.

The notice of removal explains that “by filing this case in state court, plaintiffs are seeking to avoid the MDL.” It goes on to state that the claims against U.S. Sugar are not properly joined with the claims against the other defendants and should therefore be dismissed. Further, they provide that “it would be illegal for any state to require that a paraquat label include a warning about the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, because EPA has determined that no causal link exists.” Ultimately, the defendants are removing the suit from federal to state court on the basis that it does not meet diversity jurisdiction and that it does not present a substantial federal question.

The plaintiffs are represented by Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, while the defendants are represented by Hill Ward Henderson.