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Judge rejects key expert in paraquat lawsuits, tosses first cases set for trial

An expert witness who is vital to cases claiming that Syngenta's herbicide, paraquat, causes Parkinson's disease is not able to be called in to testify in the courtroom the way a federal judge decided Wednesday, dissolving the first four lawsuits involving the product, which were scheduled to be tried.

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Lawyers representing agricultural workers are suing Syngenta and Chevron (CVX.N) opens a new tab, the first company to sell paraquat before 1986. They had tried to obtain Cornell University professor Martin Wells to testify that exposure to this chemical may cause disease. U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel found that the trials could not proceed without this evidence.

The ruling of Rosenstengel’s court does not apply to only five thousand other cases within her courts located in East St. Louis, Illinois. The judge ordered plaintiffs’ attorneys and the firms to submit a new series of cases for trial that will allow the plaintiffs to present a new expert.

Rosenstengel, who, when she barred Wells from presenting evidence, opened a new tab and stated that his data assessment was based upon “unscientific cherry-picking.” She also noted that it was a “red flag” that his opinion “has not been adopted or independently validated in any peer-reviewed scientific analysis outside of this litigation.”

The attorneys who represent plaintiffs in the lawsuit—Khaldoun Baghdadi of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger; Sarah Doles of Levin, Papantonio, Rafferty, Proctor, Buchanan, O’Brien, and Peter Flowers of Meyers & Flowers—announced they had issued a statement stating they disagreed with the decision and planned to appeal and consider bringing a fresh series of matters to the courtroom for trial.

“We will continue to prosecute these cases on behalf of the thousands of American farmworkers diagnosed with an incurable and debilitating disease because of their exposure to paraquat,” they added.

The companies have not acknowledged the possibility that paraquat can cause Parkinson’s, which is a chronic nervous system disorder that causes tremors as well as difficulty moving.

Chevron announced that the decision confirmed that “despite hundreds of studies conducted over the past 60 years, the scientific consensus is that paraquat has not been shown to be a cause of Parkinson’s disease.”

A Syngenta spokesperson stated that the company was satisfied with the decision, described as “consistent with decades of peer-reviewed scientific literature.”

Many hundred paraquat cases are also in the state courts, mainly in California. The first trial in the state court may occur later in the year.

The Paraquat case was, at one point, the most widely publicized mass tort lawsuit by lawyers for plaintiffs. The cases were concentrated prior to Rosenstengel’s trial at the end of June 2021.

Paraquat has been available since the mid-1960s. However, it was outlawed in over 60 nations. It’s approved through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only for users who have been licensed, usually on large commercial farms.

Syngenta is selling the herbicide across the U.S. under the brand name Gramoxone. It’s been popular for a while because weeds are becoming intolerant to Bayer’s Roundup, which is in the middle of another mass tort case.

Syngenta is an affiliate of Sinochem, a state-owned Chinese enterprise.

The case is titled In Re: Paraquat Products Liability Litigation, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois No. 3:21-md-3004.

Have you been just recently diagnosed as having Parkinson’s disease because of exposure to paraquat? Did you get exposed to this poisonous herbicide while at work and later develop this progressive neurodegenerative condition? The recent class-action lawsuits demonstrated how the herbicide can lead to serious health hazards and even a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

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