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Canadians have filed three class action lawsuits linking exposure to paraquat—an ingredient in some popular commercial herbicides—to Parkinson’s disease.

Since April 2021, Ontario-based Siskinds LLP and its Québec affiliate, Siskinds Desmeules, filed class actions in Québec, Ontario, and British Columbia against manufacturers who sold the chemical, the most common formulation of which is known under the trade name Gramoxone®.

These class actions follow similar lawsuits filed in the U.S. on behalf of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after being exposed to paraquat.

The Canadian Paraquat (Gramoxone®) Lawsuits

The plaintiffs in the Canadian class actions allege, among other things, that paraquat carries a hazard, namely the the risk of developing Parkinson's disease for those who used and/or were exposed to it, that the manufacturers failed to inform consumers of this associated hazard and how to protect themselves from it, that the manufacturers knew (or should have known) about the risk that paraquat would cause Parkinson’s disease, and that they failed to adequately study the issue before and after marketing.

The Gramoxone class actions cover two groups:

  1. anyone in Canada who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after using or being exposed to paraquat (Gramoxone®) since July 1, 1963 and;
  2. The relatives who have been harmed because of the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease for a person listed in item number 1, including their spouse, parents, children and siblings.

The defendants

The defendants in the lawsuit are the Swiss-based international corporation Syngenta AG and its subsidiaries responsible for designing, manufacturing, marketing, and selling products containing paraquat (Gramoxone®) in Canada.

The plaintiffs are suing, among other things, for battery and negligence, as well as under certain statutes allowing family members to seek compensation on behalf of those directly impacted. The lawsuit aims to help compensate class members for medical expenses, lost employment income, loss of the support of an affected relative, and other forms of suffering and loss resulting from exposure to paraquat (Gramoxone®).  The allegations have yet to be proven in Court.

The Canadian litigation is still in its early stages—the plaintiffs must apply for a court’s approval to proceed as a class action before going to trial. This process is called “certification” in BC and Ontario, and “authorization” in Québec. None of the actions have completed the certification/authorization stage yet.

Paraquat in Canada

Paraquat was introduced in Canada with the weedkiller Gramoxone® in 1963 and is still used today. Gramoxone® is typically sold as a liquid concentrate or granular solid to be diluted with water. It can be applied to weeds via hand-held or backpack sprayer, deposited by crop-duster planes, or sprayed from pressurized tanks attached to trucks or tractors.

Paraquat exposure risks

Anyone preparing, handling, or applying paraquat risks exposure. This would include farmers, landscapers, park maintenance personnel, and workers involved in agricultural industries. Anyone located in an area while paraquat was being sprayed would also risk exposure. The plaintiffs allege that paraquat can enter the bloodstream when inhaled, swallowed, or touched with bare skin, and that once it enters the bloodstream, it can be carried across the blood-brain barrier and cause neurodegenerative effects.

Paraquat has been associated with Parkinson’s disease across human epidemiological studies conducted over the past four decades. Many countries have banned paraquat products because of their potential risk to human health. Other countries, including Canada, allow paraquat products but now impose restrictions on their use.

The plaintiffs claim that anyone diagnosed with Parkinson’s after exposure to paraquat, and their family members, have suffered a loss. Those seeking more information, or who wish to join the lawsuit to receive further updates should contact Siskinds.

Need more information?

If you have used and/or been exposed to Gramoxone (and its active ingredient, paraquat) and have Parkinson’s disease or if you know someone who has, Siskinds may be able to help. Please email: [email protected] or call us toll-free at 877 672 2121.

Developments

A class action was commenced before the Quebec Superior Court by Siskinds, Desmeules on April, 30 2021. You can view a copy of the application for authorization to institute a class action here (French only).

Further class actions were commenced by Siskinds in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on August 6, 2021 and in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on August 17, 2021.

Each of these proposed class actions is in the early stages, and none of the proposed class actions have been authorized or certified by a court.

FAQs

What is a class action?

A class action is a lawsuit that is brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group of people whose claims share common legal and/or factual issues. Class actions provide a cost-effective way for groups of people with common interests to pursue a legal claim.

What does “certification” mean?

Certification is the motion where the court determines whether the action can properly be pursued as a class action. The court will consider factors such as whether the claims of the class members raise common legal and/or factual issues and whether a class action is the preferable method of pursuing the claims (as opposed to other methods, such as individual actions).

Do I have to pay anything to participate in the class action?

Class action lawyers are usually paid on a contingency basis. This means that class counsel are only paid if successful. Class counsel are paid a percentage of any settlement or court award. Class counsel fees are subject to court approval.

Who is affected by the paraquat (Gramoxone®) class action?

You are affected by the class action and are a “member” of the class if you are a person in Canada who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after having used and/or been exposed to paraquat (Gramoxone®) since 1963 and if you suffer or have suffered damages from the use and/or the exposure to one of the persons above notably, their spouse, father, mother and other ascendants, their children their and/or their estate.

Can I join the class action?

There are no steps required to “join” the class action. Assuming you fall within the scope of the class definition, you are automatically included in the class action unless you “opt-out” (exclude yourself from the class action).

Can I opt-out of the class action?

Yes. Once the class action has been authorized or certified, you will have the opportunity to opt-out of the class action within a period of time to be determined by the Court. If you exclude yourself, you will not be entitled to any compensation awarded under a settlement agreement or court order. You may however pursue your own action on an individual basis.

Generally, class members will wish to exclude themselves from a class action if they intend to bring their own individual action. In the majority of cases, it will be more economical to participate in the class action because the legal costs will be shared among a very large number of people.

What should I do to protect my rights?

To protect your rights, you should :

  • Keep all your medical records to confirm your diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Keep any evidence to confirm your use and/or your exposure to paraquat (Gramoxone®).
  • Register to receive updates on this case by filling out the form below.

All personal information provided will remain private and confidential.

I still have a question. Who should I contact?

If you have any other questions, please complete the Get in Touch form below.

You may also contact our Quebec firm, Siskinds, Desmeules, by phone at 418-694-2009 or at the toll free number 1-877-735-3842 or by email at [email protected].

Documents

Quebec

Application for authorization to institute a class action - April 30, 2021 (in French only)

Ontario

Statement of claim - August 6, 2021

British Columbia

Statement of claim - August 17, 2021

A class action was commenced before the Quebec Superior Court by Siskinds, Desmeules on April, 30 2021. You can view a copy of the application for authorization to institute a class action here (French only).

Further class actions were commenced by Siskinds in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on August 6, 2021 and in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on August 17, 2021.

Each of these proposed class actions is in the early stages, and none of the proposed class actions have been authorized or certified by a court.

What is a class action?

A class action is a lawsuit that is brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group of people whose claims share common legal and/or factual issues. Class actions provide a cost-effective way for groups of people with common interests to pursue a legal claim.

What does “certification” mean?

Certification is the motion where the court determines whether the action can properly be pursued as a class action. The court will consider factors such as whether the claims of the class members raise common legal and/or factual issues and whether a class action is the preferable method of pursuing the claims (as opposed to other methods, such as individual actions).

Do I have to pay anything to participate in the class action?

Class action lawyers are usually paid on a contingency basis. This means that class counsel are only paid if successful. Class counsel are paid a percentage of any settlement or court award. Class counsel fees are subject to court approval.

Who is affected by the paraquat (Gramoxone®) class action?

You are affected by the class action and are a “member” of the class if you are a person in Canada who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after having used and/or been exposed to paraquat (Gramoxone®) since 1963 and if you suffer or have suffered damages from the use and/or the exposure to one of the persons above notably, their spouse, father, mother and other ascendants, their children their and/or their estate.

Can I join the class action?

There are no steps required to “join” the class action. Assuming you fall within the scope of the class definition, you are automatically included in the class action unless you “opt-out” (exclude yourself from the class action).

Can I opt-out of the class action?

Yes. Once the class action has been authorized or certified, you will have the opportunity to opt-out of the class action within a period of time to be determined by the Court. If you exclude yourself, you will not be entitled to any compensation awarded under a settlement agreement or court order. You may however pursue your own action on an individual basis.

Generally, class members will wish to exclude themselves from a class action if they intend to bring their own individual action. In the majority of cases, it will be more economical to participate in the class action because the legal costs will be shared among a very large number of people.

What should I do to protect my rights?

To protect your rights, you should :

  • Keep all your medical records to confirm your diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Keep any evidence to confirm your use and/or your exposure to paraquat (Gramoxone®).
  • Register to receive updates on this case by filling out the form below.

All personal information provided will remain private and confidential.

I still have a question. Who should I contact?

If you have any other questions, please complete the Get in Touch form below.

You may also contact our Quebec firm, Siskinds, Desmeules, by phone at 418-694-2009 or at the toll free number 1-877-735-3842 or by email at [email protected].

Quebec

Application for authorization to institute a class action - April 30, 2021 (in French only)

Ontario

Statement of claim - August 6, 2021

British Columbia

Statement of claim - August 17, 2021

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