July 17, 2024

Obligate Law

Professional Law Makers

Top 18 Mass Torts to Watch in 2023

8 min read
Top 18 Mass Torts to Watch in 2023

In many ways, 2023 was an anti-climatic year in the world of mass torts. The 3M Earplugs settlement has been a disappointment for thousands of claimants. The rejection of J&J’s efforts to force the talc claims into bankruptcy has not prompted a major settlement and the hernia mesh claims continue to drag on. We did get a major global settlement in the AFFF litigation, but it only covered water contamination claims by local municipalities.

Let’s talk about what we can expect in 2024 in the mass tort class action lawsuits with the highest predicted settlement payouts.

Camp Lejeune

The most significant event in the mass tort world in 2023 was definitely the emergence of the Camp Lejeune water contamination litigation. This litigation originated in a new federal law (the CLJA) that was passed in August 2022. There are now over 110,000 administrative claims and over 1,000 civil lawsuits pending. In September 2023, the government initiated an early settlement program for eligible claimants and next year we could get the first trials in those cases in litigation. Our lawyers expect that 2024 will be a year of significant settlements in the Camp Lejeune litigation, with billions in potential settlement payouts.

Roundup

Not that long ago Roundup was the most popular lawn and gardening product on the market. Than changed when scientific studies emerged linking the chemical in Roundup (glyphosate) to cancer. This evidence led to a wave of Roundup product liability lawsuits that resulted in a $10 billion verdict.

But the cases… kept going and soon we have over 40,000 claims.  Bayer started trying cases.  It won 10 a row and the expected settlement amounts in these cases plummeted.  Did Bayer use this to leverage a lower settlement payout for victims?  Nope it kept pushing its luck.

Plaintiffs have won five of the last six as of February 2024 and this has pushed the expected settlement amounts of Roundup lawsuits much higher.

Paraquat

The Paraquat cases allege that chronic exposure to this industrial herbicide causes Parkinson’s disease. The Paraquat class action MDL has been one of the fastest-growing mass torts over the last 2 years. The growth rate slowed down somewhat towards the end of 2023, but 2024 will be a pivotal year for this litigation.

Nearly 5,000 cases are now pending in the Paraquat MDL and another 2,000 could be added in 2024. The Paraquat cases are strong and the first bellwether trials are supposed to begin in 2024   That means a Paraquat settlement could be on the horizon in 2024. Parkinson’s disease is a brutal condition.  So the settlement payouts in these cases could be very high.

Paragard IUD

The Paragard IUD lawsuits allege that a defect in the IUD caused the retainer arms to break off inside the body during removal. The Paragard class action MDL is in the Northern District of Georgia with Judge Leigh Martin May. This MDL has been one of the slowest moving of any mass tort class action that we follow, so we are somewhat hesitant to predict that anything meaningful will happen in 2024. That being said, something has to happen in the MDL at some point. Right now, the first bellwether trials are scheduled for the end of 2024.

While things in the MDL have plodded along very slowly, the growth rate in the Paragard MDL has been consistently solid. About 500 new cases were added in 2023, although that rate of new cases appears to be slowing down as we head into 2024. There are currently about 2,200 total cases in the MDL.

Firefighting Foam (AFFF)

The AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits allege that exposure to aqueous film-forming foam (“AFFF”) can cause certain types of cancer. All firefighting foam lawsuits in federal court were consolidated into a new MDL in the District of South Carolina. 2023 was sort of a significant year for this MDL. In August 2023, a global settlement deal was announced. Unfortunately, however, the settlement only included water contamination cases brought by local counties and water authorities. It did not cover claims by individuals alleging that they developed cancer from exposure to AFFF.

There are currently 6,400 pending cases in the AFFF MDL, but we don’t know how many of these are water contamination versus individual exposure cases. The global settlement of the water contamination cases has led to widespread speculation that a global settlement deal of the cancer cases could be in the works, but nothing has materialized on that front yet. 2024 could be the year that it happens.

Hernia Mesh

The hernia mesh lawsuits involve claims that mesh implants used in hernia repair surgeries were defective and resulted in complications and other injuries. The hernia mesh litigation involves several different MDLs, but the biggest it the C.R. Bard MDL, which now has over 20,000 pending cases.

Most of 2023 saw very little action on the hernia mesh front, but we just recently got a verdict in the third bellwether trial. A fourth bellwether trial is now scheduled for January 2024. If we get another solid verdict for the plaintiff in that trial, it could create a lot of momentum for a 2024 global settlement. The one major problem with that is the number of pending cases is very large, which complicates any global settlement negotiations.

CPAP Machine Recall

The CPAP machine recall lawsuits began after Philips recalled millions of CPAP and BiPAP devices used for sleep apnea after discovering that the sound abatement foam in the machines was causing users to inhale toxic chemicals. CPAP lawsuits followed and continue to get filed.

At the start of 2023, there were only 350 pending cases in the CPAP class action MDL. There are now almost 800 pending cases and the volume of new cases getting filed continues to rise. So what does 2024 have in store for the CPAP class action? Probably more of the same. This MDL seems to be on a slow track, so we are not expecting much in the way of major events in CPAP in 2024. We are expecting the number of pending cases to continue to rise significantly.

Talcum Powder

The talcum power cases allege that chronic exposure to talc in products such as baby powder caused cancer. The talcum powder class action against Johnson & Johnson is actually the second biggest mass tort MDL in the country, with 53,311 pending cases in the talc class action MDL as of November 2023.

2024 could be a big year for talc as we might finally get a major global settlement deal from J&J. Right now, J&J is trying to settle the talc cases on the cheap, offering only $9 billion. With over 50,000 cases, that would not be enough to get it done. Meanwhile, talcum powder cases are going to trial and resulting in big verdicts across the country, so the pressure is on J&J to act to resolve this.

Tepezza Hearing Loss

Tepezza is a new prescription drug for thyroid eye disease (TED). Many patients who received Tepezza injections suffered permanent hearing loss and are now suing the manufacturer for failing to warn about this risk. A growing number of Tepezza lawsuits have been filed across the country, and the Tepezza lawsuits in federal courts have recently been consolidated into a new class action MDL. 2024 will be a new growth year for the Tepezza litigation, which currently has fewer than 100 pending cases.

Exactech Knee & Ankle Recall

Exactech is a leading manufacturer of surgical implant systems used for total knee and total ankle replacement surgeries. Exactech was forced to initiate a major recall of all its knee and ankle replacement implants (and hip) after discovering that a defect in the product packaging was causing plastic inserts in the products to deteriorate, leading to an abnormally high rate of premature implant failure. This led to a growing product liability mass tort.

The Exactech class action MDL posted some major growth in 2023. At the start of the year, there were just 123 pending cases in the MDL. There are now 883 pending cases in the MDL, with another 200 cases pending in a state court MDL in Florida.

Hair Relaxer

In October 2022, a groundbreaking new study was published which found that regular use of hair relaxer (a product used by millions of Black women in the U.S.) increases the risk of uterine cancer. This immediately sparked a wave of hair relaxer cancer lawsuits that were quickly consolidated into a new class action MDL.

Millions of African American women in the U.S. use hair relaxers on a regular basis their entire adult life, which makes the size of the potential plaintiff field in this very big. 2023 was a year of explosive growth in the hair relaxer class action. It was by far the fastest-growing mass tort in the country in 2023. The MDL started the year with less than 150 pending cases. It will likely end 2023 with over 9,000 pending cases. This growth rate will almost certainly continue into 2024.

Suboxone Tooth Decay Lawsuit

Suboxone is a drug that is used to treat opioid addiction and dependency and it has become very widely used in recent years. The new version of Suboxone comes in a film that dissolves under the tongue. These new sublingual films cause acute dry mouth resulting in severe tooth decay, tooth loss, and other dental problems. Initially, the maker of Suboxone refused to include a warning about tooth decay on the drug’s product label, despite being well aware of the problem.

A warning about tooth decay was only added to the Suboxone label after the FDA got involved and basically told the manufacturer to add one. Thousands of people who used Suboxone suffered tooth decay and tooth loss and they are now starting to file Suboxone tooth decay lawsuits. These cases allege that the manufacturer negligently failed to warn.

The Suboxone cases are expected to be consolidated into a new class action MDL very soon. Our firm is literally getting hundreds of calls about these cases every week. Just based on the volume of leads we have been getting, we can confidently predict that this mass tort is going to get very hot in 2024. We could see several thousand cases added in 2024.

Bard PowerPort

The Bard PowerPort is a port catheter implant that enables direct access to veins for people who require frequent attachment to catheters for fluid and medication, such as cancer patients getting chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the PowerPort device has a very high rate of fracturing or migrating after implantation due to design flaws in the device. When the device fractures or migrates it often results in serious injuries including internal vascular damage and infection.

Product liability lawsuits are now being filed by a growing number of patients who had a Bard PowerPort implanted and then suffered serious injuries due to the design defects which caused it to migrate or fracture. In August 2023, the Bard PowerPort lawsuits in federal courts were consolidated into a new class action MDL. So what do we expect for this mass tort in 2024? These are good cases and right now not many of them have been filed. Less than 100 cases are currently pending in the MDL. We think 2024 will be a big growth year for this class action. How big? We think 400-500 cases will get filed in the MDL before the end of 2024.

Links to MDL Dockets

 

 

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