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Syngenta and Chevron Fail To Dismiss Paraquat Case Under Federal Preemption Argument

Paraquat Litigation Update - Illinois

On 4/12/2021 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri dismissed a motion by the manufacturers of Paraquat in the case of Henry Holyfield and Tara Holyfield vs. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., case number: 1:20-CV-00165-JAR. The motion was a motion to dismiss the case based on their assertion that the claims were preempted by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

What is Federal Preemption?

In this case, the defendants are arguing that where there is a conflict between a state law and a federal law, the federal law must win because of the doctrine of Supremacy. Here they are saying that if the Plaintiffs claims are correct, then the state law would in essence trump the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, so the claims must be dismissed under the law.

The court looked at each count in the complaint and analyzed whether under prior decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, and other courts if these counts were preempted and the case must be dismissed. On nearly all counts, the court sided with the plaintiffs and concluded that the Missouri laws and duties the Plaintiffs are seeking to enforce would not be inconsistent with the federal law, FIFRA. They specifically stated that the registration of Paraquat with the EPA does not provide them an absolute defense, and states may regulate pesticides.

On Counts IV and V, the defendants claimed that because Mr. Holyfield did not purchase Paraquat, there can be no implied warrant under Missouri law. Further they argued that the loss of consortium count in Missouri should be dismissed for failure to plead identifiable damages. The court sided with the defendants dismissing the counts without prejudice. They did however give the plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint to cure Counts IV and V.

Exposure To Paraquat By Crop Dusting

The factual summary of the Holyfield vs. Chevron paraquat lawsuit stated that Mr. Holyfield worked as an aircraft laborer in the agriculture industry from 1965, for about ten years. The complaint stated that Holyfield crop dusted the herbicide Paraquat and suffered exposure to the chemical while performing his activities. Mr. Holyfield was subsequently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The initial lawsuit, which was filed in Missouri state court, was removed to federal court under a diversity jurisdiction rule.

What Does This Ruling Mean For the Paraquat Litigation?

This ruling means that defendants cannot dismiss these cases on the basis of federal preemption. This is often a stumbling block for many litigations.

To read a copy of the full complaint click here.

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Jason Reese
Date Published: April 15, 2021
Jason Reese is a partner at the law firm of Wagner Reese. The firm has offices in Indiana and Illinois. Mr. Reese has helped many crop growers over the years in their fight to get justice against products and chemicals that harmed them.
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