Mass tort cases are lawsuits that involve multiple plaintiffs from various districts. Each of these plaintiffs file lawsuits against the same entity for similar injuries. Mass tort litigation differs from a class action, which typically has a lead plaintiff filing one lawsuit on behalf of other injured people. As a result, any compensation a judge awards will be divided evenly among all class members
in a class-action lawsuit. Contrarily, mass tort cases involve numerous individual personal injury lawsuits, allowing each plaintiff to seek compensation relative to their specific injuries.
Mass tort litigation is complex and can take several years to resolve. This article provides information and updates on significant mass tort cases that are currently pending or recently completed throughout the United States.
Mass tort cases arise when corporations fail to take proper precautions to safeguard people, resulting in similar illness or bodily harm in large victim pools. Mass tort cases comprise multiple victims suing a singular or the same group of entities for negligence. The following issues typically lead to injuries observed in mass tort cases:
Plaintiffs in mass tort cases can be victim clusters (e.g., employees of the same company, residents of the same area, patients undergoing similar medical treatments) or consumers of a similar product.
Defendants in mass tort cases are generally large corporations, such as pharmaceutical companies and consumer product manufacturers. Since mass tort cases can involve thousands of plaintiffs, collecting evidence to accurately represent the total interests of each plaintiff can be challenging.
Often, multiple attorneys and law firms handle cases for varying plaintiffs within the mass tort litigation. With the various plaintiffs, attorneys, and law firms, case management can get complicated. Cases can take several years to settle or go to trial. Therefore, case management is critical in ongoing mass tort litigation to ensure plaintiffs receive the highest quality of service and consistency.
Major ongoing or recently settled mass tort litigation in the U.S. includes:
Elmiron is a bladder pain medication used to treat Interstitial Cystitis (IC), a chronic bladder condition. Recent research linked the drug to degenerative eye disease, leading injured victims to file a series of lawsuits against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
The lawsuits allege that Janssen Pharmaceuticals failed to warn users of the dangerous side effects of Elmiron, thereby knowingly putting consumers at risk of injury.
In 2019, Kaiser Permanente, Emory Eye Center, and Harvard conducted research and clinical studies that showed Elmiron usage could cause maculopathy, resulting in a loss
of central vision.
Three lawsuits filed against Janssen Pharmaceuticals include:
Kimberly Pelczar was the first to file a lawsuit on March 26, 2020, filing the complaint in the U.S. Court for the District of Connecticut. She alleged the defendants misled people who used Elmiron, and the medical community in general, by failing to disclose that the long-term use of Elmiron could lead to retinal damage.
She began using Elmiron in 2015 to treat IC and claims she also began to experience vision problems that same year. She underwent multiple examinations for her vision problems from 2016 to 2019, and in 2019, she received a diagnosis of “permanent retinal injury and vision loss due to Elmiron toxicity.
Barbara English filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 24, 2020, alleging the defendants failed to exercise ordinary care in the manufacture, sale, labeling, and marketing of Elmiron, thereby willfully thwarting users’ knowledge of the drug’s high risk of unreasonable harm.
She began taking Elmiron in 2001 for bladder problems and started experiencing vision problems in 2017. By 2019, an eye specialist diagnosed her with “permanent retinal injury and vision loss associated with Elmiron.”
Tina Pisco filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 24, 2020, alleging the defendants’ negligence caused various injuries and vision loss. She began taking Elmiron in 2012 for bladder pain and, in 2018, received a diagnosis of “permanent retinal injury and vision loss associated with Elmiron.”
The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPMDL) created an MDL on December 15, 2020, in the District of New Jersey for Elmiron lawsuits. The manufacturers and distributors are the main defendants, consisting of the following subsidiaries and parent companies:
The three lawsuits chosen to be a part of the first series of bellwether trials included:
The brand name for the drug ranitidine is Zantac, a heartburn medication available via prescription and non-prescription forms and used widely. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a recall of the drug in April 2020 after discovering it contained carcinogens or cancer-causing substances.
Estimates show that more than 15 million Americans were taking Zantac at the time of the recall, and millions more were taking the medication in its generic versions. Valisure, a Connecticut-based online pharmacy, first discovered the dangerous side effects of Zantac in September 2019 and informed the FDA of alarmingly high levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) present in samples of the drug.
Scientists found three million nanograms of NDMA in Zantac, drastically exceeding the daily limit of 96 nanograms. As a result, the FDA asked Zantac manufacturers to send samples for testing, and significant pharmacies such as CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart suspended sales of Zantac and its generic forms.
Injured persons filed multiple product liability lawsuits against Syngenta Group and Chevron, alleging design defects and failure to warn consumers of paraquat’s adverse health effects.
Chevron’s defense team claimed that it had not sold paraquat in 35 years and vehemently denied its role in patients’ injuries, primarily the development of Parkinson’s disease.
On June 7, 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated numerous lawsuits into an MDL in the Southern District of Illinois. As of June 22, 2021, the MDL saw an increase of 116 lawsuits, bumping the number of pending lawsuits to 173. In addition, 10 related cases are pending in other federal courts, and 31 lawsuits are pending in state courts.
The presiding judge tentatively scheduled the first trial to commence in November 2022.
The defense had also moved to dismiss all claims in some states based on those states’ respective statutes of repose, but the court agreed with the plaintiffs’ assertion that these limitations could be extended in the face of evidence of overly fraudulent acts by the defendants to conceal information about the product’s dangers, as exists in the case of Paraquat.
Hernia meshes are medical devices used to protect damaged tissue after hernia surgery. The mesh attaches with stitches, staples, or glue and the pores in the mesh allow the tissue to grow into the device and accelerate recovery. Hernia mesh is used in 90% of hernia surgeries annually in the United States.
The USDA discovered hernia mesh complications, including pain, infection, bowel obstruction, organ perforation, and hernia recurrence. Some of these complications require patients to undergo additional surgeries to remove the hernia mesh. In addition, some damages are permanent, resulting in long-term health issues or chronic pain.
Over 104,000 transvaginal mesh victims filed lawsuits against device manufacturers, including Ethicon, alleging inherent design flaws and product malfunctions causing severe side effects. Companies settled the majority of these lawsuits with an approximate $8 billion.
A Philadelphia court awarded $12.5 million to a plaintiff alleging that Ethicon’s Prolift TVM caused painful intercourse requiring surgical intervention.
A New Jersey court awarded $13.5 million to a plaintiff alleging that Ethicon’s transvaginal mesh tape caused stress urinary incontinence (SUI).
A Philadelphia court awarded $20 million and $57.1 million to two plaintiffs alleging complications from Ethicon’s TVMs. A New Jersey court awarded another $15 million to a plaintiff alleging she had to undergo corrective surgery after receiving a Prolift TVM. Ethicon attempted to overturn the verdict but lost again on appeal.
An Indiana court awarded $35 million to a plaintiff alleging injury from Ethicon’s Prolift TVM.
A Philadelphia court awarded $120 million to a plaintiff alleging injury from Ethicon’s TVM. A Pennsylvania court awarded $80 million to a plaintiff alleging injury from Ethicon’s Prolift TVM.
In October 2019, Ethicon agreed to pay $117 million to 41 states and the District of Columbia to settle claims of misleading TVM marketing.
Thousands of individuals have come forward in recent years against the Boy Scouts of America. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the Boy Scouts knew that child sexual abuse had been an epidemic within the organization for decades yet failed to do anything about it.
The plaintiffs provided records showing that the organization has kept files of known or accused perpetrators since the 1920s, ensuring these files remained a secret within the organization. These files date back to the 1940s, listing approximately 7,819 perpetrators and 12,254 victims. Most of the perpetrators were Boy Scout leaders who sexually abused victims during camping trips.
Thousands of plaintiffs across multiple states have filed lawsuits against the BSA. The lawsuits allege that the BSA failed to weed out pedophiles, protecting perpetrators rather than its members.
Six men filed a lawsuit against the BSA, claiming that an assistant scoutmaster sexually abused them in the 1980s. The jury was able to read thousands of internal BSA abuse records, making this the first time any plaintiff or jury was allowed to see the mismanagement and cover-ups within the BSA. The case resulted in a $19 million judgment in damages to the six victims.
Investigators reviewed 1,200 secret files from the BSA from 1965 to 1985. Investigators found that authorities in the BSA kept instances of abuse quiet, urging predators to resign rather than reporting them to the police. The LA Times investigated many cases, yet there were no records of BSA officials reporting allegations to the police.
The opioid epidemic has been widespread throughout the United States since the late 1990s. The medical community believed the pharmaceutical companies when they assured them that patients wouldn’t become addicted to opioid pain relievers. Accordingly, doctors began prescribing opioids at high rates, leading to nationwide addiction, misuse, overdose, and death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that opioids have caused quadruple the amount of deaths from 1999 to 2019. They further report that opioids caused more than 70% of 70,630 deaths in 2019.
Opioid lawsuits are widespread, including:
They further alleged that the defendants failed to detect, investigate, monitor, and report suspicious subscriptions
There are 50 defendants named in the lawsuits, including these major distributors and their subsidiaries allegedly responsible for 80% of the distribution of opioids:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit declined a request for a proposed negotiation class to streamline settlement negotiations among over 34,000 municipal entities and opioid manufacturers. A U.S. District Judge previously approved the negotiation class in 2019. However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied it on the grounds that it violated federal civil procedural rules.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled to consolidate McKinsey & Co. lawsuits into a separate MDL and transferred the case to the Northern District of California.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) have been a form of long-term contraception on the market for more than 30 years. They’re hormone-free T-shaped copper devices inserted into the uterus to provide immediate pregnancy protection.
Experts considered Paragard IUDs one of the safest forms of contraception as they are surgery-free, hormone-free, and inserted in-office.
Lawsuits filed by individuals injured by Paragard IUDs include:
Primary allegations in the lawsuit include:
Manufacturing and Design Defects: Focusing on the risk of Paragard IUD breaking inside the uterus during ordinary use and removal
Failure to Warn: Asserting that Teva Pharmaceuticals, manufacturers, and distributors of Paragard IUD failed in their duty to adequately warn consumers of the risk of breakage (plaintiffs claim that although their doctors may have understood the risks, patients were unaware, thereby violating their right of informed consent)
The court ruled in Smith & Nephew’s favor on all except the misrepresentation and warranty claims, citing the need to decide each case individually.
In December of 2021, Smith & Nephew filed a motion to dismiss claims related to 2009 implants in the larger MDL on the basis that plaintiffs failed to show that the company had information about defects that would affect their use before then. A ruling is still pending.
Lawsuits filed by injured hip replacement recipients include:
The National Council of Negro Women filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, alleging the company of “knowingly deceptive marketing to Black women” for decades. They argue that the company provided free samples at beauty salons, had radio campaigns, and other efforts.
As of July 18, 2021, Johnson & Johnson is exploring creating a new business that would then seek bankruptcy protection after Johnson & Johnson offloads its liabilities from its baby powder litigation. If they pursue a bankruptcy plan, plaintiffs would likely receive lower payouts if they’re unable to settle before the pharmaceutical company’s declaration.
In October of 2021, in a move known as the “Texas two-step,” Johnson & Johnson transferred its liabilities to a new subsidiary in Texas, LTL, then filed for bankruptcy in North Carolina, while keeping its own assets separate, according to a report by NPR.
Johnson &Johnson has offered to create a fund worth billions through the bankruptcy court for the benefit of cancer victims, which would allow victims to file claims without going through the court system. This can help victims receive compensation faster, but the settlements could be lower. The company still has 38,000 unresolved cases.
According to a Forbes report, Johnson & Johnson has set aside $3.9 billion in anticipation of the establishment of the trust fund.
People injured after taking proton pump inhibitors filed the following lawsuits:
The 10 initial lawsuits sought six years’ worth of reimbursement for plaintiffs that had purchased contaminated batches of valsartan. However, the court acknowledged 17 additional personal injury lawsuits for plaintiffs that had developed cancer or liver damage from using valsartan.
Mass tort cases will never cease to exist. Pharmaceutical companies are notorious for distributing and marketing drugs that cause injuries, prioritizing profit over public health.
Besides pharmaceutical companies, many businesses disregard their duty to safeguard the public’s well-being to pursue increased revenues, creating the need for lawsuits to hold these companies liable.
Below is information on several notable ongoing mass tort cases to watch in 2022 and beyond. These cases are constantly developing, and the information will be updated as they proceed:
A complete list of defendants named in the lawsuits follows:
Now that this information has been made public, survivors can finally hold the Southern Baptist Convention accountable for its role in aiding and abetting the abuse while further traumatizing survivors.
Mass tort cases are time-consuming and require ample financial resources. In addition to actual litigation work, attorneys lose time on administrative tasks that involve large volumes of data that must be gathered, reviewed, and managed.
For these reasons, outsourcing case management is crucial. Legal outsourcing companies can provide highly competent staff specialized in multiple areas of litigation at reduced costs.