Mass tort litigation is a powerful form of litigation that can take place in state or federal court. Mass torts typically arise when multiple plaintiffs have the same complaint against a corporation or another defendant. The issues covered by these cases range considerably, from asbestos to tobacco to pharmaceutical products. This type of litigation dates back to the 1960s and early 1970s, but it has grown significantly since its beginning. Three main categories of mass tort cases exist: disaster, product liability and toxic exposure. Each mass tort category involves a different type of incident.
Mass torts have evolved throughout history, helping to shape the legal system and improve the way this type of legal action is handled. Below is a brief discussion of some of the most notable mass tort cases through the years.
1. Agent Orange
Considered the original mass tort, the Agent Orange litigation began in the 1970s. The case was a large toxic exposure mass tort related to the health effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam combat veterans and their children. The plaintiffs sought medical care and other benefits for the suffering they experienced after being exposed to this toxin.
The asbestos litigation began in the 1980s, after scientists discovered that exposure to asbestos could lead to cancer and a number of other serious consequences. Asbestos also plays a role in ongoing mass tort litigation involving Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder. This talc-based product has been shown to be contaminated with asbestos and is now connected to asbestos-related diseases as well. Because of asbestos contamination, lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson were initiated in 2016.
A series of lawsuits against Big Tobacco were filed in the 1980s, accusing these companies of failing to warn consumers of the risks associated with their products, as well as fraudulent advertising. Perhaps one of the most notable cases in this series was the Cipollone v. Liggett Group case, which ended in 1988 after a jury in New Jersey awarded the plaintiff’s husband $400,000. This was considered a landmark case in tobacco mass tort litigation.
4. Silicone Breast Implants
The first major silicone breast implant lawsuit was filed in 1984, after these medical devices became associated with cancer, autoimmune diseases and other issues. These lawsuits put silicone breast implant manufacturers out of business or near bankruptcy, despite the fact that the medical evidence used in these cases was weak.
Vioxx was a pain medication manufactured by Merck that was eventually found to cause both heart attacks and strokes. Experts believe that this drug may have caused as many as 38,000 deaths. The mass tort claims associated with this drug led to a multi-billion dollar settlement.
6. Transvaginal Mesh (TVM)
Transvaginal mesh is a medical device used to treat pelvic organ prolapse. This device was found to cause infection, as well as injuries to internal organs. The first transvaginal mesh lawsuits went to trial in 2012 and 2013. This mass tort litigation is one of the largest examples in history, involving more than 60,000 lawsuits and billions of dollars in potential damages.
These are just a few notable mass tort cases litigated over the years, with more mass torts emerging every day. In the future, personal injury law firms can expect to be approached with cases related to talcum powder, hernia mesh, opioids and much more. If you operate a personal injury law firm involved in mass tort litigation, you need to be ready to deal with an influx of calls related to mass tort campaigns. Contact Alert Communications to find out how we can help you manage your incoming leads.