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On April 7, 2021, a plaintiff involved in a paraquat lawsuit pending in the U.S. District for the Northern District of California filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) requesting that all federally filed paraquat lawsuits be centralized in that court for pretrial proceedings.

Now, defendants Syngenta and Chevron have filed responses to that motion, indicating their agreement to consolidation, but arguing that the Northern District of California is not the best location for the proposed paraquat MDL.

Defendants Agree on Consolidation but Disagree on the Proposed Location

In a response filed April 29, 2021, Chevron stated that it does not oppose consolidation for pretrial proceedings “in a suitable forum,” but suggests the Eastern District of Missouri instead of the Northern District of California. That district, the company argues, has the experience, skill, and current capacity to handle a paraquat MDL, and also has the support of at least two plaintiffs.

The Eastern District of Missouri is also the site of the most advanced federal paraquat case, which was filed July 22, 2020, and is geographically convenient because the city of St. Louis is located at the relative center of the country.

Chevron adds that extensive written discovery and document productions have been conducted in state-court paraquat cases, so the documents produced in paraquat-related litigation are housed and hosted with Chevron’s legal counsel in that district, making it readily available.

The JPML should not consolidate these cases in the Northern District of California, Chevron argues, because California is geographically inconvenient to “nearly all the parties and attorneys,” it has a disproportionately high active caseload and has judicial vacancies that pose judicial emergencies. The company also opposes the Southern District of Illinois, stating that this court would be potentially overwhelmed by a paraquat MDL.

In its response filed the same day as Chevron’s, Syngenta agreed with these points, while adding that of all the 67 plaintiffs in the related 62 actions, only one resides in California, much less in the Northern District, and that plaintiff filed in the District of Minnesota. Plaintiffs in the other actions are represented by dozens of different law firms, and none of them operate in California.

Are Chevron Headquarters Irrelevant to MDL Location?

The plaintiff who filed the motion to consolidate suggested the Northern District of California as the best location for a paraquat MDL because it is within 40 miles of Chevron’s headquarters in San Ramon, “providing easy access to documents and witnesses.”

Syngenta argued that Chevron has not sold paraquat for 35 years and that the physical location of the documents and other evidence has become increasingly irrelevant as electronic discovery becomes more widespread and convenient. Chevron, too, noted that most documents related to the litigation are already in the Eastern District of Missouri.

Paraquat Linked with Increased Risk of Parkinson’s Disease

Paraquat is a popular herbicide used by farmers to kill broadleaf weeds and grasses before planting various crops, to control weeds in orchards, and to desiccate {dry) plants before harvest. It has been in use in the U.S. for decades but has come under fire recently for its potential link to Parkinson’s disease.

Plaintiffs who have filed paraquat lawsuits claim that after using the herbicide for years and being exposed to it via various methods of transmission, they developed Parkinson’s disease. They seek to hold paraquat manufacturers like Syngenta Crop Production LLC and Chevron U.S.A. Inc. liable for damages.

The defendants argue that paraquat is safe when used as instructed and that there is no proof that paraquat causes Parkinson’s disease.

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