There are a number of mass torts that will come into play throughout 2019. Many of these have been in the works for quite some time and will likely have influential and precedent-setting outcomes that will influence other mass torts and civil actions for years to come. Consumer Alert Now is a nationwide firm that specializes in precisely these types of mass torts.

Opioid Mass Tort (Opiate MDL 2804)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids were the causative factor for more than forty-two thousand (42,000) deaths by overdose in the year 2016 (the last year for which data is available).

Seeing as how the country is in the grips of this crippling opioid epidemic, this mass tort has been a long time coming. A little over a year ago, various opioid lawsuits against the distributors and makers of opiate-based painkillers were proliferating to such a degree that the United States Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation (also referred to as the JPML) consolidated these various civil actions to be presided over by a single judge: the Honorable Dan Aaron Polster of the Northern District of Ohio.

This multidistrict litigation (MDL) was granted and designated as Federal Opiate Litigation MDL 2804 (also known as “Opiate MDL 2804”). It was originally made up of more than one thousand (1,000) lawsuits sprawled out over a number of disparate jurisdictions. Because the JPML granted Opiate MDL 2804, these various individual suits are now contained within a single venue (the Northern District of Ohio).

In January of 2018, Judge Polster gave his opening remarks to attorneys representing over two hundred (200) municipal governments in his courtroom in Cleveland. In the past year, the mass tort has only grown in size and its plaintiffs now include:

  1. One thousand five hundred forty-eight (1,548) federal court cases

  2. Seventy-seven (77) sovereign tribes

  3. Benefit funds for labor unions

  4. Hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities

  5. Infants who have been born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (however, most of these plaintiffs have broken off to form a new mass tort discussed below)

In all, millions of Americans now comprise the total plaintiffs who are being represented in this historical mass tort. It also means that the final compensation will likely amount to tens of billions of dollars. The mass tort specifically alleges that distributors and manufacturers of generic and/or brand name prescription opioids systematically disregarded the health and safety of the plaintiffs. Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege that this actionable behavior was done in blatant disregard and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (more commonly known as “RICO”).

This is a unique case because RICO is most usually invoked in cases where prosecutors are going after organized crime. In other words, Opiate MDL 2804 is basically claiming that all the companies that saw record-breaking profits from the overprescription of opioids are, in essence, operating like narcotic-selling syndicates. In the history of the United States jurisprudence, such a legal argument has never been made before. However, there has also never been a public health crisis quite like the current opioid crisis, so there is effectively no precedent for this type of legal action.

The most widely known defendants in this mass tort include:

  1. Purdue Pharma

  2. CVS Pharmacy

  3. Johnson & Johnson

  4. Teva Pharmaceuticals

  5. AmerisourceBergen

  6. Wal-Mart

  7. Cardinal Health, Inc.

  8. Mallinckrodt PLC

  9. McKesson Medical Supplies, Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare Solutions

In the immediate future, Judge Polster is currently hearing from both sides in order to determine which bellwether cases will be implemented to move the mass tort forward. The first set of bellwether cases are set to begin in September of 2019 and will be referred to as “Track 1” cases. This set of cases comprises three civil suits that were filed by local governments in the city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio.

Furthermore, in December of 2018, Judge Polster approved a second set of bellwether cases to be designated “Track 2”. This set will consist of two (2) civil suits in Cabell County, West Virginia and the municipal government of Huntington, West Virginia. It is important to note that both Ohio and West Virginia have been some of the hardest hit locales in terms of the opioid epidemic.

Second Opioid Mass Tort (Infant MDL 2872)

Because of the sheer complexity and size of the Opiate MDL 2804, and the enormity of the opioid epidemic, a second opioid mass tort has been recently developed. Attorney Kevin Thompson, the primary representative of a legal group known as Opioid Justice Team, filed a motion on November 28, 2018, to create new multidistrict litigation (MDL) for the opioid mass tort. This argument was heard by the JPML panel in New York City.

The JPML granted this motion and designated it Infant MDL 2872 (otherwise known as the “Infants Born Opioid-Dependent Products Liability Litigation”). Seeing as how Opioid Justice Team is a legal organization that focuses on the children affected by the opioid epidemic, MDL 2872 was created to represent the interests of infants born addicted to opioids. This is formally known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (or also known as NAS) and has been a hitherto overlooked part of the opioid epidemic.

Rather than gathering new plaintiffs, however, Mr. Thompson and Opioid Justice Team are requesting that the plaintiffs for MDL 2872 be taken from the large-scale Opiate MDL 2804 and transferred to a federal circuit judge in West Virginia. It is prudent that these various mass torts be kept in states where the local population has been devastated by opioids as it will likely result in juror pools that are more sympathetic to the plaintiffs rather than the defendants. In West Virginia alone, approximately five percent (5%) of all newborns have NAS.

Talcum Powder Mass Tort

There was a recent four point seven billion dollar ($4.7 billion) verdict for plaintiffs in the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder case, meaning that further MDLs in the wider mass tort will likely see more aggressive litigation on the part of the plaintiffs. It is also possible that, because of this incredibly high payout, Johnson & Johnson may offer settlements in some of the MDLs if their prospects of a legal victory appear to be shrinking.

The talcum powder mass tort is significant because of the host of health problems that the plaintiffs allege they have suffered and the further claim that Johnson & Johnson has covered up their knowledge of these negative effects. Talc is the key ingredient in talcum powder, and it is a mineral that is primarily composed of silicon, oxygen, and magnesium. Johnson & Johnson products that contain talcum powder include:

  1. Baby powder

  2. Feminine hygiene products

  3. Dry shampoo

  4. Foot powder

  5. Additives to pads

The plaintiffs claim that talc particles, which are light and airborne, can potentially travel up to the ovaries and eventually cause ovarian cancer. This is significant because health experts estimate that approximately one in five (1 in 5) women in the United States apply talcum powder products (usually baby powder) to their genitals on a regular or semi-regular basis.

This claim is substantiated by the research: some oncological studies from the 1970s have noted a potential link between talcum powder on the genitalia and ovarian cancer. More recent studies have concluded that women who use talcum powder in this manner have a forty percent (40%) higher chance of developing certain types of ovarian cancer.

Furthermore, another recent study from Harvard Medical School, based on a sample size of three thousand (3,000) women, concluded that women who used talcum powder once a week had a thirty-six percent (36%) higher risk of developing ovarian cancer and those who used it daily had a forty-one percent (41%) higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

The plaintiffs in the mass tort allege that this link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer is due to the talc being contaminated by asbestos. It also alleges that Johnson & Johnson engaged in a pattern of deception by covering up that it knew, at multiple points in time between 1971 and the early 2000s, that there were potentially toxic levels of asbestos in its talcum powder products. There are even unearthed reports and documents that potentially show that in 1976, when the Food and Drug Administration (known as the FDA) was determining safe levels of asbestos in cosmetic talcum powder products, Johnson & Johnson outright lied about third-party laboratory results in its asbestos tests.

Monsanto Roundup Mass Tort

There are multiple upcoming trials against agrochemical and agricultural biotechnological company Monsanto for its weed and grass killer known as Roundup. This product is formally known as a “glyphosate-based herbicide” and is widely sold to help boost crop yields and deter damaging or invasive plant species from invading farmland.

Roundup, however, has been linked to a number of different cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In October of 2018, a cancer-riddled groundskeeper who had extensive experience handling the toxic chemical was awarded two hundred eighty-nine million dollars ($289 million) in compensatory and punitive damages from the Monsanto company (however, the presiding judge did reduce the final amount). Although Monsanto has declared its intention to appeal, this ruling will likely open the proverbial floodgates for a number of other mass tort actions, most of which will likely start developing throughout the calendar year of 2019.

Legal experts predict that the various mass torts directed against Monsanto will likely be incredibly strong as recent research suggests that traces of Roundup have been detected in fifty percent (50%) of foodstuffs consumed in the United States. Furthermore, the World Health Organization (the WHO) and its International Agency for Research on Cancer had already designated glyphosate (Roundup’s active ingredient) as a human carcinogen as far back as 2015.

Due to this designation, there were over five thousand (5,000) cases filed against Monsanto, many of which will likely be consolidated into one or more MDLs that will eventually make their way through the courts. Particularly damning is the potential evidence suggesting that Monsanto knew about the toxicity of Roundup and did nothing to protect its consumers or the general public.

Surgical Mesh Mass Tort

It is important to remember that mass torts also include medical devices (not just pharmaceutical drugs or environmental toxins). Surgical mesh, used both for hernias or as transvaginal mesh, has resulted in significant complications and exhibited extremely high rates of failure for the product. Consequently, pelvic mesh settlements have already reached eight billion dollars ($8 billion), though this number is likely only to grow even further.

Some potential complications from surgical mesh product failure include:

  1. Infections (including infection of the blood, or “sepsis”)

  2. Severe abdominal, leg, groin, uterine, and/or testicular pain

  3. The potential need to surgically excise the testicles

  4. Potential bowel obstructions (which require surgical intervention)

Originally comprised of a series of smaller cases in local courts, the JPML consolidated them into the Bard MDL 2846 case. This MDL comprises the failures of the following surgical mesh products:

  1. Kugel (by CR Bard)

  2. PerFix Plug (by CR Bard)

  3. Sepramesh (by CR Bard)

  4. 3DMax (by CR Bard)

  5. Ventralex (by CR Bard)

However, legal experts estimate that there may be as many as forty-two thousand (42,000) new failures per year for the surgical mesh devices, resulting in a slew of incoming claims and plaintiffs. Many of these will likely be from the following products:

  1. C-Qur (by Getinge Group)

  2. Proceed (by Ethicon)

  3. Physiomesh (by Ethicon)

  4. Surgipro (by Medtronic)

  5. Patrietex Composite (by Medtronic)

Plaintiffs who have been negatively affected or harmed by these additional products may end up getting added to the preexisting Bard MDL 2846 case, or a new MDL may be formed to cover these various newer claims. However the situation may play out, legal experts consider this to be the fastest growing group of mass torts for 2019.

Other Mass Torts in 2019

There are a number of other mass torts to keep track of in 2019, including:

  1. Taxotere (Docetaxel) - This chemotherapy drug can cause permanent, irreversible, and total hair loss (also known as “permanent alopecia”). It has been on the market since 1996, although the severity of this side effect was not communicated to patients or listed in the various warnings until 2015. This is a full decade after the same warning appeared on the medication’s packaging in the European Union (EU) and Canada. There are approximately eight thousand seven hundred (8,700) Taxotere (Docetaxel) patients who have suffered permanent alopecia and consequently filed lawsuits, all of which have been consolidated into an MDL in the Eastern District of Louisiana. This mass tort’s presiding judge has approved for bellwether trials to begin in the latter half of 2019.

  2. Essure - This is a permanent birth control method that was developed by the pharmaceutical company Bayer AG. It is an intrauterine device (more commonly known as an IUD) that was withdrawn from the market in 2018 due to patients complaining of a variety of problems. These include chronic and debilitating pain as well as perforations of the fallopian tubes and uterus. There are also claims that the product did not effectively prevent pregnancies. As of early 2019, there are over fifteen thousand (15,000) women who have filed claims related to Essure. Bellwether cases are expected to begin in late 2019.

  3. Xarelto (Rivaroxaban) - This is a medication used to prevent the development of blood clots; it is, in other words, a prescription blood thinner. Bayer AG and the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals (the company tasked with marketing the drug in the United States) are also facing lawsuits for the potential dangers of Xarelto. These include serious and potentially fatal side effects, including strokes, hemorrhages, and blood clots. In March 2019, Bayer AG and Janssen agreed to a settlement of seven hundred and seventy- five million dollars ($775 million) to settle approximately twenty-five thousand (25,000) lawsuits. Furthermore, another twenty thousand (20,000) lawsuits have not been settled and are currently being consolidated under an MDL with four bellwether cases scheduled for 2019.

  4. Proton pump inhibitors - This class of drugs, also known as PPIs, work by reducing the amount of acid in your stomach in order to treat a variety of gastrointestinal disorders, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcers. However, there have been a number of cases that link these PPIs to kidney disease and kidney failure, with various lawsuits being consolidated under an MDL. Bellwether trials are set to start in late 2019 and early 2020.

All these various mass torts comprise the most important and potentially groundbreaking legal cases to be aware of in 2019. As mentioned above, they all still have to undergo the process of hearing the various bellwether cases in order to determine the likelihood of having juries sympathetic to the plaintiffs.

If most of these bellwether cases result in high payouts for the plaintiffs, then it is more likely that the defendants will forego the final trial and simply offer settlements.

Find a Mass Tort Law Firm Near Me

If you believe that you are entitled to join one of these mass torts due to having suffered injury or harm from one of the medications or products mentioned above, then call our mass tort attorney at 800-511-0747 immediately.