Chevron Corp's defense lawyers in the ongoing lawsuit regarding their paraquat herbicide's Parkinson's disease risk are possibly facing sanctions. A lawyer of Jones Day law firm representing Chevron Corp has been accused of coaching an expert witness during deposition which could have severe consequences if true. The ongoing Paraquat lawsuit against Chevron is estimated to cost them billions paid out to the many people harmed by Paraquat weedkiller and this latest development indicates that this outcome is all the more likely.
Those that have experienced long-term exposure to Paraquat also known as Gramoxone and developed Parkinson's disease should strongly consider looking into available options for legal action as soon as possible by contacting an experienced product liability lawyer. The Paraquat lawsuit against Chevron is still ongoing and in its earlier stage. Successful litigation could reward those harmed by Paraquat weedkiller with compensation that can help cover medical bills, lost wages, and even pain and suffering.
The Call for Sanctions Against Jones Day
A motion filed Tuesday, November 15th in East St. Louis Illinois federal court alleged that Sharyl Reisman, an attorney and partner of Jones Day, instructed a witness to not answer questions during their deposition and conferred with them during breaks. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that Reisman stopped the witness from answering questions about which documents he had been given to review by Chevron before the deposition. These alleged actions taken towards the witness, former Chevron toxicologist Richard Cavalli, are considered to be highly improper if found to be true.
The plaintiff’s motion posits that since Cavalli worked on Paraquat before 1986, under federal rules of civil procedure, his communications with Chevron’s lawyers such as Sharyl Reisman, have only limited privilege protections. Since Cavalli was called to testify about his direct experience with Paraquat instead of being hired as an outside expert by the defense, the interactions between Reisman and he could be considered improper.
As a consequence, plaintiffs have called for sanctions against Jones Day in addition to a request to depose Richard Cavalli once more. Jones Day nor Reisman have yet to respond to requests to comment on these claims.
What is Paraquat?
Paraquat, also known as paraquat dichloride or Gramoxone, is an herbicide primarily utilized to kill weeds and other vegetation typically as part of agriculture. It is a potent chemical created with the intent to kill living organisms so it comes as no surprise that it is extremely toxic to human beings as well. Paraquat is so toxic that the EPA has classified it as a “restricted use” chemical while over 30 countries have banned it outright.
Paraquat has been on the market since the 60s and has been used across the country in farms, parks, and even private homes, therefore, exposing a vast number of people to its dangerous effects. Paraquat use has actually increased due to the decrease in popularity of other weedkillers as they decline in effectiveness against more resilient weeds. The following are products that contain Paraquat:
- Para-Shot 3.0
- Helmquat 3SL
- Cyclone SL 2.0
- Ortho Paraquat CL
- AH 501
- Bai Cao Ku
Chevron is but one of many manufacturers that are responsible for Paraquat. Herbicides across the market have been found to contain the dangerous substance with Chinese manufacturers responsible for most of the iterations of these dangerous products on the market today. Paraquat manufacturers include:
- Chevron Chemical Company
- Drexel Chemical Company
- Adama Group
- Altitude Crop Innovations
- United Phosphorus
- Helm Agro
- Sinon USA
- Innvictis Crop Care
Paraquat's Connection to Parkinson's Disease
Paraquat has long been known to be a toxic chemical. Ingestion of even a miniscule amount of Gramoxone can be fatal. Despite knowledge of Paraquat’s lethality, questions of its ability to cause Parkinson’s disease have taken time to reach certainty.
Parkinson’s Disease is a particularly debilitating neurological disorder where the deterioration of cells in the brain causes a loss of motor function and control of the body. Parkinson’s typically will cause uncontrollable tremors, imbalance, stiffness, and a loss of mobility in general.
Connections between Parkinson's and Paraquat started in the 2000s with a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2009. Then another study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in 2011 furthered the scrutiny of the herbicide as it showed a connection between proximity to Paraquat use and increased Parkinson’s risk. Several other studies were published in 2014 by the Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology which cemented a connection between Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease.
The controversy surrounding Paraquat would then come to a head in 2021 when Greenpeace would publish the Paraquat Papers. This piece of journalism would expose a wide variety of unethical actions taken by the makers of Paraquat in order to profit off the weedkiller at the expense of human misery. The piece covers Syngenta’s attempts to cover up the fact that their addition of emetics to Paraquat was not enough to actually prevent lethal poisoning and their knowledge of their product’s danger that they ignored out of greed.
The Lawsuit Against Chevron Over Paraquat-Related Injuries
As a result, there have been a slew of product liability lawsuits filed primarily against Chevron and Syngenta. The sheer number of plaintiffs suing these companies has led to the establishment of a class action. The multidistrict litigation (MDL) of Paraquat means that all of the lawsuits will be consolidated together and will be overseen by Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel of the Southern District of Illinois.
So far the mass tort over Paraquat still has a long way to progress but the overwhelming evidence and the sheer number of plaintiffs bode well for the MDL’s success. There have been other class action lawsuits filed because of dangerous weedkillers such as Roundup that have met with significant success as well. Syngenta settled a series of product liability lawsuits last year regarding Paraquet-related Parkinson’s disease for confidential amounts estimated to be substantial. As of this article’s writing, there have been no trials yet scheduled with many plaintiffs hoping a settlement can be reached.