An Illinois federal judge said that state law claims that Syngenta AG and Chevron Corp. sold paraquat even though they knew it caused Parkinson’s disease were not time-barred but tossed claims alleging that the companies’ promotion of the chemical created a public nuisance.
U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel sided with the consumers’ arguments that because they alleged that the companies knew about, and concealed, the dangers of using paraquat, the deadlines for filing suit under the laws of Illinois, Georgia, Connecticut and Iowa did not apply. In three other states — Iowa, Indiana and North Carolina — the deadlines for filing suit don’t apply to allegations that concern exposure to an innately dangerous substance that causes a latent disease, like Parkinson’s, the judge found.
Co-lead plaintiffs counsel Khaldoun A. Baghdadi of Walkup Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger, Sarah Shoemake Doles of Carey Danis & Lowe and Peter Flowers of Meyers & Flowers said in a statement that they were pleased with the ruling, which they said allows nearly all their clients’ claims to proceed.
In June, the consumer’s suits alleging they developed Parkinson’s disease after many years of exposure to the herbicide were consolidated in Illinois federal court. The substance, which is used to kill weeds in fields before crops are planted, is banned in the European Union but is sold with restrictions in the U.S.
They claim that a number of epidemiological studies have found an association between exposure to paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, including studies that have found people who are exposed to paraquat through their jobs have a higher risk than those who aren’t.
However, the judge noted that the suits involve people who say they were harmed by paraquat, not that soil or water contamination caused their disease, therefore they have failed to allege that a public right has been interfered with.
She also noted a 2021 decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court that reversed a $465 verdict against Johnson & Johnson on the grounds that its opioid marketing created a public nuisance.
In that ruling, the state high court found that a manufacturer has no control over its product once it leaves its hands and no control over how it’s used by consumers.