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Ohio is home to more than 11 million acres of cropland, so it’s no surprise that high rates of paraquat application have been reported in several Ohio counties. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and believe it may be due to paraquat exposure, you may be wondering whether it is too late to file a paraquat lawsuit.
That’s really two questions:
- Are new paraquat lawsuits still being filed?
- Is there still time to file a paraquat lawsuit in my specific situation?
Are New Paraquat Lawsuits Still Being Filed?
The answer to this one is simple. Yes, people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after exposure to paraquat can still file and are still filing paraquat lawsuits. Federal paraquat cases from all over the country have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
MDL can be a bit confusing, but it’s not like a class action, where all claims are consolidated into one big case. In MDL, closely related cases are clustered together in the same court, and some common issues are resolved all at once. But, each case remains an individual lawsuit. That means new cases can be filed at any time, as long as the statute of limitations for the individual claim has not run out. In fact, it’s still early days in terms of managing the MDL and trying cases. Currently, it appears that the first trial in the paraquat MDL won’t take place until late 2022.
New cases can also be filed in state court in Ohio.
How Does the Ohio Statute of Limitations Affect My Paraquat Claim?
Any lawsuit, whether in Ohio state court, another state’s court, or the federal court system, must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations. Once the statute of limitations expires, the suit will virtually always be barred.
The statute of limitations differs for different types of cases. In Ohio, the statute of limitations for product liability claims like the paraquat cases is two years. But, that information alone likely won’t tell you whether or not you can still file a paraquat claim. The best way to get information about whether or not you have time to file a paraquat Parkinson’s disease lawsuit is to consult an Ohio attorney who is experienced with complex product liability cases.
The reason it isn’t always immediately apparent whether it’s too late to file a product liability lawsuit is that it may be difficult to determine exactly when the two-year period started.
In certain types of cases, like a car accident case, the state date is obvious: the statute of limitations begins to run when the crash takes place. But, with an issue like chemical exposure causing an illness or long-term harm, it may not be so clear.
Under Ohio law, the countdown starts when the cause of action “accrues.” That means the earlier of:
- The date when the injured party was told by “competent medical authority” that they have an injury related to the exposure, or
- The date when the plaintiff should have known, by exercise of reasonable diligence, that they had an injury related to the exposure
Paraquat is believed to cause Parkinson’s disease as a result of long-term exposure, which may be in low quantities. That means there’s no clear moment of impact: those who developed Parkinson’s disease as a result of paraquat exposure didn’t get sick immediately after using the product or being in an area where a local farmer was using the product.
Instead, symptoms generally develop over time, so there’s no link between the exposure and the disease that would be obvious to the person experiencing symptoms. After symptoms emerge, it may take time for a physician to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Even at that point, many plaintiffs had no reason to connect their symptoms and subsequent diagnoses to their use of or exposure to paraquat.
When Should a Plaintiff Have Reasonably Known of Paraquat-Related Injury?
There have been concerns about paraquat for many years. In fact, the substance was banned in the European Union (EU) in 2007. In the years that followed, multiple studies found a connection between paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease. But, the public was generally unaware of these studies, and the first paraquat lawsuit wasn’t filed until 2017. And, public awareness didn’t pick up for another two to three years.
With this continuum, it may be difficult for you to figure out exactly when the court will determine the statute of limitations on your case started to run. And, the parties may disagree on that issue. In fact, the paraquat defendants have requested that the MDL court dismiss some claims based on the statute of limitations. The judge has given plaintiffs until December 13 to file their response.
The upshot is that you may not be able to reliably determine whether you still have time to file a paraquat lawsuit on your own. Just as important, you may not be sure when that time will run out. So, if you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and believe you may have a paraquat claim, your best next step is to contact an Ohio product liability attorney who has experience with chemical exposure cases.
At Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz, LPA, we’ve been fighting for maximum compensation for injury victims and people harmed by dangerous products for more than 30 years. We offer free consultations to people who believe they may have personal injury, product liability, and medical malpractice claims, including paraquat claims. But, time may be limited and delay may put your claim at risk. Contact us today.