A Brief History of Mass Tort Litigation

Many mass tort claims arise when consumers are injured by defective products or drugs, and because these issues cause a wide range of problems it is difficult to organize them into a single class. These lawsuits are typically complicated and often do not follow standard legal procedure. Determining settlement and compensation can also be difficult because mass torts include such a wide range of claims.

There are three main categories of mass tort litigation, including disaster mass tort, toxic exposure mass tort, and product liability mass tort.

Mass tort litigation is similar to class action because both are lawsuits dealing with large groups of claimants and are used to reduce the number of similar court cases in a system. Class action lawsuits are actually a type of mass tort, which cover a broad range of claims.

The mass torts throughout history have helped the legal system shape and improve the way this type of legal action is handled. Mass tort litigation continues to grow and can trace its history back to the 1960s and early 1970s, when attorneys began representing plane crash victims. Victims experienced a variety of injuries and filed claims against airplane manufacturers, suppliers, and airlines. These mass accident claims began with a single catastrophic event that caused numerous injuries and deaths.

Well-Known Mass Tort Litigation

During the 1970s, a mass tort case began to develop involving the chemical Agent Orange and the danger is caused when military members were exposed during their time in Vietnam. Gradually more and more veterans filed lawsuits across the country at the federal and state levels claiming the herbicide caused health problems. Agent Orange is now accepted as a dangerous chemical, but for many years this danger was highly disputed and claimants’ attorneys had to work hard to prove their clients’ injuries were because of Agent Orange exposure.

Sometimes considered the most famous of all mass torts, asbestos litigation also began in the 1970s, and included lawsuits across the country addressing numerous asbestos-containing products and companies, as well as a wide variety of injuries due to exposure. Lawsuits related to asbestos exposure were seemingly endless and there are still claims placed today, as those exposed to the material continue to develop health problems later in life.

In 1998, the four largest tobacco companies in the United States settled with the Attorneys General from 46 states regarding their Medicaid lawsuits. The settlement exempted the companies from private tort liability and provided compensation to smokers who developed cancer and other health issues related to their use of tobacco.

Baycol, a statin drug manufactured by Bayer A.G., was responsible for more than 50 deaths and hundreds of injuries to users. The drug was eventually recalled in 2001 and Bayer settled nearly 3000 cases worldwide in 2005, paying $1.133 billion in settlement.

2007 brought another mass tort settlement related to a drug - this time it was the pain medication Vioxx, manufactured by Merck. Vioxx has been shown to trigger heart attack and stroke in patient. Some estimates show the drug could be responsible for nearly 40,000 deaths.

Mass Tort Litigation Underway Today

Today there are several mass tort cases in progress, including lawsuits against drug and medical device manufacturers of transvaginal mesh, morcellator medical devices, IVC filters, and brand name drugs including Xarelto, Zofran, Bair Hugger, Invokana, and Risperdal. Syngenta, a manufacturer of GM Corn, also faces mass tort litigation, after tens of thousands of farmers claim the corn damaged the global market.

If you have been injured by a drug or medical device, consumer product, or toxin exposure, you might be eligible for settlement money from mass tort litigation. If no settlement exists, you might have the right to begin legal action. Contact Andrus Wagstaff at 866.795.9529 to discuss your case and determine if you should take legal action.

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