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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Bayer makes new $2 billion plan to head off future Roundup cancer claims

Monsanto owner Bayer AG said Wednesday it was attempting again to manage and resolve potential future Roundup cancer claims, laying out a $2 billion deal with a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys that Bayer hopes will win approval from a federal judge who rejected a prior plan last summer.

Notably, the deal calls for Bayer to seek permission from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to add information on the labels of its glyphosate-based products such as Roundup that would provide  links to access to scientific studies and other information about glyphosate safety.

Additionally, according to Bayer, the plan calls for establishment of a fund that would compensate “qualified claimants” over a four-year program; setting up an advisory science panel whose findings could be used as evidence in potential future litigation; and development of research and diagnostic programs for medical and/or scientific research into the diagnosis and treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The plan must be approved by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Chhabria has been overseeing the Roundup multidistrict litigation.

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A death and a settlement as Bayer continues trying to end Roundup litigation

Seven months after Bayer AG announced plans for a sweeping settlement of U.S. Roundup cancer litigation, the German owner of Monsanto Co. continues to work to settle tens of thousands of claims brought by people suffering from cancer they say was caused by Monsanto’s weed killing products. On Wednesday, one more case appeared to find closure, though the plaintiff did not live to see it.

Lawyers for Jaime Alvarez Calderon, agreed earlier this week to a settlement offered by Bayer after U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria on Monday denied summary judgment in favor of Monsanto, allowing the case to move closer to a trial.

The settlement will go to Alvarez’s four sons because their 65-year-old father, a longtime winery worker in Napa County, California, died just over a year ago from non-Hodgkin lymphoma he blamed on his work spraying Roundup around winery property for years.

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There’s a red flag here: how an ethanol plant is dangerously polluting a US village

For the residents of Mead, Nebraska, the first sign of something amiss was the stench, the smell of something rotting. People reported eye and throat irritation and nosebleeds. Then colonies of bees started dying, birds and butterflies appeared disoriented and pet dogs grew ill, staggering about with dilated pupils.

There is no mystery as to the cause of the concerns in Mead, a farming community so small that its 500 residents refer to it as a village and not a town.

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Bayer’s bid to settle U.S. Roundup cancer claims making progress

Monsanto owner Bayer AG is making progress toward a sweeping settlement of thousands of U.S. lawsuits brought by people alleging they or their loved ones developed cancer after exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides.

Recent correspondence from plaintiffs’ lawyers to their clients underscored that progress, confirming a large percentage of plaintiffs are opting to participate in the settlement, despite complaints by many plaintiffs that they are facing unfairly small payout proposals.

By some calculations, the average gross settlement will leave little to no compensation, perhaps a few thousand dollars, for individual plaintiffs after attorneys’ fees are paid and certain insured medical costs are reimbursed.

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Trump’s EPA is quietly killing us while the world focuses on COVID-19

As the days tick down to next month’s presidential election, debate rages over the U.S. government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic with critics of President Donald Trump calling for his ouster due to his failure to protect the American public.

And yet as mass media runs daily tallies of COVID-related cases and deaths, a more sinister threat to public health looms as the Trump administration rolls back regulations that govern the quality of our air, land, and water. And though these actions are garnering little public outcry now, they pose grave danger to our children and their children for decades to come. It’s a simple truth — a poisoned environment means poisoned people.

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