Trial pitting farmers against Syngenta delayed until June

A highly anticipated first-ever trial pitting a group of farmers against the global agricultural giant Syngenta AG over allegations that Syngenta’s paraquat weed killer causes Parkinson’s disease has been delayed until June, the parties involved said on Saturday.

The trial was set to begin Monday, livestreamed by Courtroom View Network, but a continuance was ordered setting a new trial date for June 1. A spokesman for the plaintiffs’ legal team said the delay was not due to any settlement efforts, but due to “a combination of scheduling and Covid issues.”

The case is titled Hoffman V. Syngenta and is set for a bench trial in St. Clair County Circuit Court in Illinois before Associate Judge Kevin Hoerner.

The plaintiffs are farmers who developed Parkinson’s after repeated exposure to paraquat products, specifically Syngenta’s widely used Gramoxone brand, and the spouses of those farmers. Three of the original plaintiffs in the case have died, including plaintiff Thomas Hoffman.

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Paraquat litigation grows, first trial set for May 10

Six more lawsuits alleging Syngenta’s weed killing pesticide paraquat causes Parkinson’s Disease were filed last week in Pennsylvania, California and Illinois, adding to more than a dozen similar lawsuits already filed in U.S. courts.

The lawsuits all allege that exposure to paraquat,  which is banned in more than 30 countries though not in the United States, causes the incurable and progressive Parkinson’s disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain, leading in advanced cases to severe physical debilitation and often dementia and death.

Many Parkinson’s experts say the disease can be caused by a range of factors, including exposure to pesticides such as paraquat, as well as other chemicals.

The first trial set to take place in the United States is to begin on May 10 in St. Clair County Circuit Court in Illinois. Missouri lawyer Steve Tillery  is representing the plaintiffs in Hoffman V. Syngenta and said he plans to introduce evidence that includes internal company records showing Syngenta has known for decades that its product causes Parkinson’s Disease.

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Trial lawyers accuse Monsanto, Bayer of “pay-to-appeal scheme,” allege “fraud”

The lawyers who led the nationwide U.S. Roundup litigation through three trial victories and forced Monsanto owner Bayer AG into an $11 billion settlement have notified a federal court that they have uncovered evidence of fraud in a secret deal between Monsanto and a lone plaintiff’s lawyer who has not been active in the litigation until recently.

In a series of filings made Thursday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, lawyers from three firms involved in the three successful Roundup trials alerted the court to what they said was an effort by Monsanto to “buy” a favorable appellate court ruling.

The agreement between Monsanto and one plaintiff and his attorney is a “pay-to-appeal scheme,” according to plaintiffs’ lawyers Aimee Wagstaff, Brent Wisner and Jennifer Moore.  The legal team asks the court to dismiss the appeal they allege is the focus of the scheme.

The lawyer involved in cutting the deal with Monsanto is Ashleigh Madison of Southeast Law LLC in Savannah, Georgia.  Madison confirmed various terms of the arrangement with Monsanto to Wagstaff’s firm in an email and phone conversations recounted in a declaration, according to the filings made Thursday.

When contacted for comment, Madison denied the allegations and said her client’s best interests are her “top priority.” She said she looks “forward to further addressing the matter before a court of law, as our system of justice intends.”

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Long-Lasting Health Impacts of DDT Highlighted in New Study

A new research report shows health problems linked to the long-banned insecticide DDT have persisted across at least three generations, affecting even the granddaughters of women exposed to the chemical in the 1960s. 

The research, which was published April 14 in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention Journal, is the latest in a series of findings generated from a relatively unique study that began in the 1960s, when DDT was widely used. Researchers obtained blood samples from women in their third trimester of pregnancy and also just after they gave birth to determine their DDT exposure. More than 15,000 women seeking obstetric care at the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1959 to 1967 were included in the original study.

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Federal court rejects Syngenta’s bid to toss lawsuit over paraquat herbicide

A federal judge has denied Swiss chemical company Syngenta’s effort to throw out one of a growing number of lawsuits alleging the company’s weed killing products cause Parkinson’s Disease. The decision offers a boost for the expanding number of law firms and plaintiffs making similar claims.

In an April 12 ruling, U.S. District Judge John Ross in the Eastern District of Missouri denied a motion filed by Syngenta and co-defendant Chevron that sought to dismiss a lawsuit brought by married Missouri couple Henry and Tara Holyfield.

“We were pleased that the court denied the motions to dismiss,” said Steven Crick, an attorney with the firm of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain who is representing the Holyfields. “We are also confident that the defendants’ efforts to dismiss or derail the case will continue.”

The lawsuit alleges Henry Holyfield developed Parkinson’s, a debilitating and incurable progressive nervous system disorder, due to his exposure to paraquat in his work as a crop duster. The suit alleges that paraquat was distributed “without adequate instructions on safe use” and “without instructions or warnings that the paraquat was dangerous to health and life and caused disease.”

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Move to consolidate US paraquat litigation as cases mount against Syngenta

Lawyers suing Swiss chemical company Syngenta are asking a U.S. judicial panel to consolidate more than a dozen similar lawsuits under the oversight of a federal judge in California.

The move is a telling sign of the expansion of litigation that alleges the company's weed killing products cause Parkinson's Disease.

According to the motion, filed April 7 by the Texas-based Fears Nachawati law firm with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, there are currently at least 14 lawsuits in six different federal courts across the country filed on behalf of plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder. The lawsuits blame exposure to Syngenta's weed killers made with a chemical called paraquat for the disease. Several other cases making the same allegations are pending in state courts.

"The cases are excellent candidates for coordinated pretrial proceedings because they arise from the same poisonous toxin causing the same crippling disease resulting from the wrongful conduct of the same three defendants," the Fears Nachawati brief in support of its motion states.

The motion seeks transfer specifically to Judge Edward Chen in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Majed Nachawati, a partner with the Fears Nachawati firm, said the firm was still investigating the size and scope of the overall litigation but believes the paraquat litigation against Syngenta "will be significant and material in nature…"

"Very soon, there is going to be litigation in dozens of federal courts across the country," Nachawati said.

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New Roundup cancer trials loom despite Bayer settlement efforts

Ken Moll is girding for battle.

Moll, a Chicago-based personal injury attorney, has dozen of lawsuits pending against the former Monsanto Co., all alleging the company’s Roundup weed killers cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and he is now preparing several of those cases for trial.

Moll’s firm is one of a handful that have refused settlement offers made by Monsanto owner Bayer AG, deciding instead to take the fight over the safety of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide products back into courtrooms around the country.

Though Bayer has assured investors it is bringing closure to the costly Roundup litigation through settlement deals totally more than $11 billion, new Roundup cases are still being filed, and notably several are positioned for trial, with the earliest set to start in July.

“We’re going forward,” Moll said. “We’re doing this.”

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A ‘sip can kill’: did a chemical company misrepresent data to avoid making a safer product?

Around the world, the deadly dangers of a weedkiller called paraquat are well known. When working with the highly toxic herbicide, farmers and other users take care not to splash or spill even small amounts of the product, heeding regulatory warnings that just a tiny amount – if swallowed – will kill them.

“If you ingest just three drops of paraquat you’re going to die,” said the US farmer Cameron Peirce who uses the chemical sparingly in his fields of canola and mung beans in Kansas.

Switzerland, the home base of the paraquat maker Syngenta, has banned the chemical since 1989, and it has been banned for use in the EU since 2007, because of paraquat’s deadliness.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows only restricted use of the pesticide in the United States by people certified and trained to apply it, such as landscapers and farmers. And the agency warns users on a government website that “one sip can kill”. Paraquat warning labels carry the symbol of death – a skull and crossbones.

Paraquat exposure is also believed by some scientists to cause Parkinson’s disease, and Syngenta is facing litigation on that issue – though it denies responsibility.

Still, many countries allow wide use of paraquat, and the toll from paraquat poisonings is estimated at well into the thousands. The low cost and high toxicity makes paraquat a popular poison for people trying to kill themselves. Syngenta says it is just one of 377 companies worldwide that have registered paraquat for sale.

But now, internal corporate documents, obtained by a US law firm and provided to the Guardian, detail how the need for a safer formulation of Syngenta’s popular Gramoxone paraquat-based product has been the subject of in-depth company discussions for decades. Years of analysis and debate over the issue are laid out in the records, as are arguments about the accuracy of data presented to regulators, and strategies to avoid regulatory bans.

The documents, which date back to 1968, show that Syngenta and its predecessor corporate entities rejected or resisted many different options for changes to the formulations of Gramoxone, due, at least in part, to a desire to protect profits. 

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Bayer’s class action settlement plan draws widespread outrage, opposition

More than 90 law firms and more than 160 lawyers have notified a federal court judge overseeing U.S. Roundup litigation that they oppose Monsanto owner Bayer AG’s $2 billion plan to settle future claims the company expects to be brought by people diagnosed with cancer they blame on use of Monsanto’s herbicide products.

In recent days, nine separate objections to the plan and four amicus briefs have been filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, letting Judge Vince Chhabria know the extent of opposition to the proposed class settlement. Chhabria has been overseeing thousands of Roundup cancer lawsuits in what is called ‘multidistrict litigation’ (MDL).

On Monday, the National Trial Lawyers (NTL) joined in the opposition on behalf of its 14,000 members. The group said in their filing with the court that they agree with the opposition that “the proposed settlement seriously endangers access to justice for millions of people in the proposed class, would prevent Monsanto’s victims from holding it accountable, and would reward Monsanto in numerous respects.”

The group reiterated in its filing the fear that if Bayer’s proposed settlement is approved, it will set a dangerous precedent for plaintiffs in future, unrelated cases: “It will hurt the proposed class members, not help them. This type of settlement would also provide an untenable template for other corporate tortfeasors to avoid appropriate liability and consequences for their conduct… the proposed class settlement is not how a ‘system of justice’ works and thus such a settlement should never be approved.”

The $2 billion proposed settlement is aimed at future cases and is separate from the $11 billion Bayer has earmarked to settle existing claims brought by people alleging they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) due to exposure to Monsanto’s weed killers. The people impacted by the class settlement proposal are individuals who have been exposed to Roundup products and either already have NHL or may develop NHL in the future, but who have not yet taken steps to file a lawsuit.

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Revealed: Monsanto owner and US officials pressured Mexico to drop glyphosate ban

Internal government emails reveal Monsanto owner Bayer AG and industry lobbyist CropLife America have been working closely with US officials to pressure Mexico into abandoning its intended ban on glyphosate, a pesticide linked to cancer that is the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkillers.

The moves to protect glyphosate shipments to Mexico have played out over the last 18 months, a period in which Bayer was negotiating an $11bn settlement of legal claims brought by people in the US who say they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to exposure to the company’s glyphosate-based products.

The pressure on Mexico is similar to actions Bayer and chemical industry lobbyists took to kill a glyphosate ban planned by Thailand in 2019. Thailand officials had also cited concerns for public health in seeking to ban the weedkiller, but reversed course after US threats about trade disruption.

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