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2019 Midyear Update: Mass Tort and Class Action Litigation Outlook

2019 Midyear Update: Mass Tort and Class Action Litigation Outlook

At the start of the year, we noted significant cases to watch in 2019.Here is a look at where some of that litigation stands at the midyear point, as well as other mass tort litigations that are now evolving and taking shape.

  • 3M Combat Arms™ Earplugs. This is the biggest mass tort litigation news this year and it could end up being the biggest mass tort outside of asbestos. The federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has assigned the cases to Judge M. Casey Rodgers in the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Florida for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Judge Rodgers recently announced leadership positions, appointing 53 lawyers from 42 firms to leadership for the plaintiffs.
  • Talc litigation. This is becoming the asbestos case of the decade given the evidence presented at trial that showed J&J talc was potentially contaminated with asbestos fibers. As a result, suits arising from mesothelioma have now joined ovarian cancer. In addition, a number of very large verdicts across multiple jurisdictions have been handed down so far—upwards of $5 billion at the time of this writing.
  • Monsanto’s Roundup® and Cancer. There are multiple trials on the docket in 2019 against Monsanto regarding its glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, being linked to various cancers. Litigation continues, and there have been several large verdicts against Monsanto this year, including $2 billion awarded to a couple and $80 million to a man, both in California. Monsanto’s new owner, Bayer, has announced it will invest more than $5.6 billion in weed killer research and pledged to lower its corporate environmental footprint by 30 percent through 2030.
  • Opioids. Teva Pharmaceuticals recently settled for $85 million with the State of Oklahoma following Purdue Pharma’s $270 million settlement in March with the state. The funds will go into state coffers to support opioid treatment and awareness campaigns. There is also talk of a proposed global resolution to create a settlement class among municipal entities throughout the United States, so watch for how that may unfold.
  • Surgical Mesh. Firms continue to take on hernia mesh claimants; litigation of this product is currently undergoing bellwether selection, with trials to start in late 2019.
  • IVC Filters. Litigation is proceeding and we may see some activity later this year.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs). This is a large litigation, with an additional 5,000 cases filed earlier this year. Litigation is proceeding and again we may see some activity later this year.

Emerging matters

  • Sexual Abuse Cases within USA Gymnastics, University of Michigan, the Catholic Church, USC and Boy Scouts of America, to name a few. Public attention regarding sex abuse in the academic realm has grown dramatically since the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky case; allegations among other academic, athletic, religious and fraternal organizations and institutions continue to rise against coaches, physicians, priests and other leaders. Newly-enacted state laws such as New York’s Child Victims Law are making it possible for more victims to step forward and seek justice.
  • Human Trafficking. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline website, there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally (International Labor Organization, 2017), with hundreds of thousands in the United States. The victims are men and women, adults and children, foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike. While this issue has gained more widespread public attention and outcry, trafficking cases have been slow to reach civil courts. It is time for human trafficking to take its place among mass tort cases, with careful consideration around compensation strategy and increasing societal awareness.

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