Chevron USA and Syngenta, two major defendants in multidistrict litigation (MDL) against claims that the weed killer, paraquat, caused Parkinson's disease, propose to begin the proceedings by weeding out invalid claims.
Attorneys for the corporations moved to dismiss approximately 100 claims in September for reasons ranging from deficiencies in claims, expired statutes of limitations, and various laws in the 36 states in which the plaintiffs reside. These motions, Chevron and Syngenta claimed, would “clean up the docket, streamline the litigation, and focus the parties’ attention on the critical legal and factual issues,” according to the Madison - St. Claire Record.
The dismissals are being reviewed by Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel. Judge Rosenstengel received a docket of 329 paraquat cases as of Oct. 15 from the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML).
Chevron USA’s attorney Leon DeJulius filed motions beginning on Sept. 13, asserting that since Chevron USA ceased distributing paraquat 35 years ago, many of the cases in the MDL were either partially or wholly barred from proceeding due to the statute of limitations.
DuJulius filed a thorough defense of Chevron’s position, including arguments that:
- In six states, the statute of limitations applies beginning on the date when an injury occurs or is discovered, regardless of whether plaintiffs know of its cause.
- Personal injury claims cannot be filed after two years in Alabama.
- Maine’s statute of limitations is six years, starting at the time that a wrongful act produces an injury.
- In Michigan, product liability claims must be filed within three years of the plaintiff being harmed.
- In Mississippi, all general civil claims expire after three years.
- In Nebraska, product liability claims expire after four years.
- In New York, product liability and consumer protection claims expire three years after the date that a “diligent plaintiff” should have discovered their injury.
- States have statutes of repose that prevent liability claims a certain number of years after the sale of a product. For example, the statute of repose in Illinois gives 10 years from delivery to its initial consumer for the consumer to file a claim.
Since many statutes of repose range from 10-15 years, DeJulius argued, “Any suit alleging exposure that ended by 2010 or 2011 necessarily involved paraquat that was sold before then, and strict liability claims arising from those sales are barred.”
Many of these arguments have also been adopted by Syngenta in a similar effort to weed out invalid claims from the MDL.
Plaintiff lawyers called the motions premature, but as of the last week of October, they have stipulated that 63 plaintiffs would dismiss Chevron USA as a defendant without prejudice. Future plaintiffs joining the paraquat MDL will likely be subjected to a more intense examination of when their injuries occurred in order to curtail additional dismissal orders.