As the number of product liability claims over the herbicide Paraquat and its link to Parkinson’s disease increases, the federal judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation (MDL) has pushed back the start of the first jury trial to mid-2023. 

U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel, who is presiding over the Paraquat MDL, recently announced that plaintiffs and defendants must complete depositions and limited discovery for an expanded number of cases. 

The first of the original 6 bellwether cases selected in May of this year was set to begin late in 2022. But due to the expanding number of claims, Judge Resenstengel rescheduled the first trial date to next year.

Approximately 1,800 Paraquat lawsuits have been filed at the federal level, mostly by farmers and agricultural workers against chemical makers Syngenta and Chevron. Plaintiffs allege that the companies failed to warn them about the association between handling the weed killer and Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition that can take many years to develop. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Paraquat, due to its toxicity, is available for use only by commercially-licensed users.

The parties involved in the litigation had originally selected 16 bellwether cases earlier this year. Judge Rosenstengel later narrowed the number of bellwether cases to six and had scheduled them to begin in November of this year. But with a new case management order, the first bellwether case to be scheduled for trial will be determined July 24, 2023. 

Judge Rosenstengel also elaborated that the first Paraquat jury trial will be selected from the original six bellwether claims, while discovery should be completed for an additional 20 claims in the MDL. 

Additional depositions are necessary to help the jury gather more information related to the plaintiffs’ claims, Judge Rosenstengel stated in her order.