IN BRIEF: So. District Illinois wins fierce battle for paraquat MDL venue

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The logo of Chevron Corp is seen in its booth at Gastech, the world's biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

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(Reuters) - The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on Monday created a new MDL for claims against makers of the weedkiller paraquat, including Chevron Corp and ChemChina unit Syngenta Group, in the Southern District of Illinois.

While the defendants and most plaintiffs did not oppose the creation of the MDL, its venue was hotly disputed. One group of plaintiffs, represented by lawyers including Ann Saucer of Fears Nachawati, had sought the Northern District of California, or the Southern District of Illinois as an alternative.

"On behalf of the paraquat victims that Fears Nachawati represents, we are grateful that the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation granted our motion for centralization," the firm said.

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Another group represented by lawyers including Steven Crick of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, opposed centralization, but as an alternative proposed the Eastern District of Missouri. Yet another, represented by lawyers including Mikal Watts of Watts Guerra, requested the Southern District of Illinois.

Chevron, whose lawyers include Jason Levin of Steptoe & Johnson, and Syngenta, whose lawyers include Ragan Naresh of Kirkland & Ellis, did not oppose centralization and proposed several possible venues, but both objected to the Southern District of Illinois.

Syngenta spokesperson Saswato Das said the company was pleased the cases had been centralized and that there was "no credible evidence" paraquat caused Parkinson's.

Chevron and the other lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The panel sent the litigation to Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel of the Southern District of Illinois.

The case is In re: Paraquat Products Liability Litigation, Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, No. 3004.

For Syngenta: Ragan Naresh of Kirkland & Ellis

For Chevron: Jason Levin of Steptoe & Johnson

For California plaintiffs: Ann Saucer of Fears Nachawati

For Missouri plaintiffs: Steven Crick of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain

For Illinois plaintiffs: Mikal Watts of Watts Guerra

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Brendan Pierson reports on product liability litigation and on all areas of health care law. He can be reached at brendan.pierson@thomsonreuters.com.