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Following a hearing with both parties involved in paraquat litigation, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has ordered that all paraquat lawsuits be consolidated into the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois for pre-trial proceedings under MDL No. 3004. The Honorable Nancy J. Rosenstengel will oversee the litigation.

Parties Mostly Agree to Paraquat Centralized Litigation

There are currently over 90 paraquat lawsuits that have been filed in various courts across the country. All of the plaintiffs bring claims related to exposure to paraquat, a dangerous pesticide that has been linked with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Plaintiffs in the Northern District of California moved to centralize these actions into one court, suggesting the Northern District of California or the Southern District of Illinois. The motion included fourteen actions pending in six districts, plus 77 potentially related actions.

The plaintiffs who filed the first paraquat lawsuit in the Eastern District of Missouri opposed centralization, stating that it wasn’t needed because informal cooperation would be sufficient and because there were too few actions to justify centralization. They also argued that their case’s progress should not be impeded by centralization alongside newer cases. Should centralization be approved, they suggested the Eastern District of Missouri as the location for the new paraquat MDL.

The rest of the plaintiffs were in favor of consolidation and differed only on which district would be best. Many favored the Southern District of Illinois, while others suggested the Northern District of Alabama, the District of Minnesota, the Northern District of Mississippi, the Eastern District of Missouri, and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The two main defendants—paraquat manufacturers Syngenta Crop Protection LLC and Syngenta Corporation (collectively Syngenta) and Chevron USA Inc. (Chevron)—did not oppose centralization, and suggested the Eastern District of Missouri or the District of Minnesota or the Northern District of Texas.

Why Did the JPML Choose the Southern Illinois Court?

The JPML, in its order of transfer, found that the centralization of paraquat lawsuits would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.

The panel also found that the actions involved common factual issues—mainly concerning the propensity of paraquat to cause Parkinson’s disease—and that centralization would eliminate duplicative discovery, avoid inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.

The JPML did not agree with the opposing plaintiffs that there weren’t enough cases to justify centralization, since there are already 77 potential tag-along actions pending in 16 different districts and more expected to come.

Finally, the JPML chose the Southern District of Illinois because it “ranks in the top five states in paraquat usage,” and because paraquat litigation has been proceeding in that court for several years already. Judge Rosenstengel presides over 20 cases in that district, so she already has the skills and the background needed to efficiently run the centralized proceedings.

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