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Judge in Paraquat MDL Dismisses Public Nuisance and Minnesota Consumer Protection Claims

Posted on February 14, 2022

A U.S. District Judge in the Paraquat Multidistrict Litigation proceedings on Feb. 14 dismissed public nuisance and certain consumer protection claims brought against defendants Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and Syngenta Crop Protection LLC.

Judge Nancy Rosenstengal of the U.S. District for the Southern District of Illinois issued a memorandum order granting Chevron’s motion to dismiss the public nuisance claims and Syngenta’s motion to dismiss consumer protection claims raised under Minnesota law. The judge’s order allowed consumer protection law claims brought under the laws of other states to continue to proceed, finding the claims were not time-barred.

In citing the decision to strike down the public nuisance claims, the judge found that the plaintiffs failed to sufficiently plead the elements of interference of a public right. The judge additionally cited issues raised in the Oklahoma’s state claims against defendants in opioid litigation regarding the control a manufacturer or distributor has over a product once it has been sold.

“This Court is not convinced that a manufacturer’s choice to carry out its daily business activities constitutes control over a product after it has been sold. As pointed out by Defendants, in State ex rel. Hunter v. Johnson & Johnson, 499 P.3d 719 (Okla. 2021), the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed a $465 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson on a public nuisance theory of liability, finding there is no common law tort duty to monitor how a consumer uses a product after it is sold. Specifically, the court held that a manufacturer has no control over its product once it is in the hands of distributors and wholesalers, no control over how consumers use the product regardless of any warning or instructions, and no control over the laws and regulations governing the distribution of its products. Id. at 728-29. To hold otherwise, would mean ‘a manufacturer could be held perpetually liable for its products under a nuisance theory,'” the ruling said.

Plaintiffs in the Paraquat MDL have alleged personal injury claims, including Parkinson’s disease, against Syngenta and Chevron on theories of strict product liability, design defect, and failure to warn. The case is In re: Paraquat Products Liability Litigation, No. 3:21-md-3004-NJR, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

The memorandum and order can be found here.