Despite the fact that plenty of lawsuits, government regulations and academic studies have all pinpointed the dangers of a number of different types of consumer products, the number of mass tort cases has only continued to grow.
These mass tort lawsuits are only filed after someone suffers catastrophic injuries or loses a loved one due to a defective or dangerous product. In many cases these are consolidated into class action lawsuits in which a number of plaintiffs are all pursuing damages against a responsible at fault party.
Defective Airbag Trials and Consolidation
A number of multi-district litigation cases happened over the course of year, many of which were considered bellwether trials for how future claims might be treated. One of the most well-known had to do with the massive recall of Takata airbags.
Lots of fillings and forward movement happened on that front, but it's clear that the results are still months or years away. Regulator actions, criminal allegations, and an MDL are all pending against the manufacturer of exploding airbags. The company is also looking at Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of the exploding airbags.
In high humidity, the airbags can explode and send shrapnel throughout the vehicle. The airbags were initially recalled by Honda back in 2008. In the second half of the year, the manufacturers settled half of the legal claims- those related to economic loss. The final economic loss settlement was approved by a Florida federal judge for $741 million. The personal injury track of claims, however, is still unfolding.
Testosterone Therapy Injury Cases
Plaintiffs in a testosterone injury case argue that they were never told about the risk of heart attack and other side effects when taking testosterone replacement drugs. One of the most commonly targeted drugs in the lawsuits is AndroGel, and that manufacturer is accused of failing to test for the risks.
After more than three years of litigation, the first few trials in those cases took place in 2017, and many more are getting scheduled on dockets as well. Lawyers in those cases report that the judge in charge is trying to give plaintiffs the benefit of bellwethers by getting the first cases scheduled quickly, and some dockets have these cases on the docket through 2019. Although settlement is being encouraged by the court, it has not yet closed out these cases.
The first case involving AndroGel did not find that the company was liable for the heart attack of the plaintiff, but they did find punitive damages for the plaintiff after determining that the marketing materials misrepresented the safety of the drug. The second case tried in 2017 led to a major verdict of over $140 million for the plaintiff.
Mass torts will continue to be on the rise as the number of mass tort cases currently pending in the Philadelphia Complex Litigation Center just at the beginning of 2017 was its highest in the previous five years.
Many of the mass tort cases are lodged against major drug and medical device manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, the makers of Nexium. 2016 already saw Johnson & Johnson on the losing side of many product liability lawsuits and a backlog of claims throughout 2017 continued that trend. Defective drugs and medical devices are some of the most commonly-filed cases and this trend is anticipate to continue.
Medical Device Manufacturers Front and Center
Some of the other biggest mass tort cases in 2017 showed consistency with previous years. Pelvic mesh, dangerous drugs and talcum powder were all prominent lawsuits that came about in 2017. In August, for example, a record-breaking talcum powder lawsuit was levied against Johnson & Johnson.
The victim in that case was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, allegedly due to her use of talcum powder, and a California jury awarded her more than $400 million. There are more than 5,000 talcum powder cases already filed and continuing throughout 2017 and beyond.
The Johnson and Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, was ordered to pay a victim a $57 million settlement. The Pennsylvania resident filed this lawsuit after suffering dangerous complications with the erosion of her pelvic mesh implants. More than 54,000 trans-vaginal mesh mass product liability cases have already been filed against Ethicon and are currently pending in courts nationwide.
Defective vaginal mesh inserts were prominent in numerous mass tort cases throughout 2017; in April one plaintiff was awarded $20 million in damages for her mesh implant that failed less than one month after implantation, and in August, Endo International agreed to put aside approximately $775 million to settle 22,000 separate injury claims for defective vaginal mesh lawsuits. This was also a major year for mass tort cases affecting Risperdal.
Risperdal is a popular antipsychotic medication often given to children and teenagers with behavioral issues. However, many young men have come forward and been successful with personal injury claims of the mass tort variety, holding the manufacturer responsible for the development of gynecomastia or breast development in young boys.
Over the course of 2016, the seven biggest verdicts against manufacturers of defective products included six Johnson & Johnson claims which totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. These settled lawsuits included Risperdal, defective hip implants and talcum powder. If you or someone you know has already been injured in such a claim, you may have reported it to the Food and Drug Administration or the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
These government agencies are responsible for receiving and investigating adverse event reports that are initiated by consumers. Frequently, these are the beginnings of mass tort legal cases, because consumers do not yet realize that the problem may be widespread.
After dozens or even hundreds of people may come forward with similar allegations, a recall may be initiated in some cases either by the government agencies or by the company directly. In others, this can lead plaintiffs to come together and consolidate their claims in a class action lawsuit, also referred to as a mass tort claim.