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Top 5 Mass Torts of 2022

In this recap, we cover five of the most prominent mass torts of this year and discuss the status of the litigation, the expert specialties that would be most suitable for each case, and where attorneys can quickly gather research and resources on these mass tort topics.

Expert Institute

Written by
— Updated on December 22, 2022

Top 5 Mass Torts of 2022

This past year has been an eventful one for mass torts with constant updates concerning some of the biggest cases across the nation. As 2022 comes to a close, we’re breaking down five of the biggest mass torts of this year, some of which had significant verdicts during the ongoing litigation. Read on to learn more about the latest litigation for several products and devices, including current case status, the best expert specialties for each of these mass torts, and litigation research and resources that address the causal links between the injuries and the products at the heart of these MDLs.

3M’s Defective Ear Plugs

Numerous active and retired military service members filed lawsuits against 3M for its military-issued earplugs that caused hearing loss. The proliferation of 3M’s earplugs was due, in part, to its sales contract with the United States military, becoming a standard issue for U.S. service members for years. The company marketed the Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2, as a dual-purpose design—one end was designed to hear some noise, and the other end provided protection from damaging noises. However, the plaintiffs claimed that the earplugs were defective since they could not be inserted properly into the ear, resulting in the plaintiffs’ auditory injuries from loud noises. The service members also alleged that 3M knew about the defects since 2000 but failed to fix or warn about the earplugs. The 3M multidistrict litigation has already been established as the largest mass tort in U.S. history.

Litigation Status

Of the scheduled bellwether trials for 2022, 3M prevailed in six of the 16 cases while the plaintiffs won almost $300 million in judgments. The latest $77.5 million verdict was the largest award in all of the bellwether trials.

In July 2022, 3M announced that it was committing $1 billion to a trust dedicated to resolving the pending lawsuits. As part of the plan, Aearo Technologies, the company that manufactured the earplugs and was acquired by 3M in 2008, would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, the plaintiffs’ firms argued that the trust is “woefully underfunded,” noting that 13 out of 19 service members’ cases that went to trial resulted in nearly $300 million in damages.

Required Expert Specialities

Related Research Guides & Resources

Zantac and Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Zantac (Ranitidine) is a compound that has been on the market since 1983 for the treatment of heartburn and acid reflux. It was one of the world’s top-selling drugs and more than 25 million prescriptions were written for the drug as recently as 2018. However, testing in 2019 by the FDA revealed unsafe levels of the known carcinogen NDMA (N-Nitrosodimethylamine) in Zantac.

Since the sounding of industry-wide alarm bells in late 2019, the focus has been on both emerging and prior research pertaining to NDMA risk factors. While there are clear, multi-decade links between NDMA and cancer, the task of separating pre-existing causes of cancer from those potentially caused by NDMA found in Zantac proved challenging. In early December 2022, U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg found that the plaintiffs’ lawyers failed to offer credible evidence that Zantac causes liver, bladder, pancreatic, esophageal, or stomach cancer. Based on the conclusions in his 341-page opinion, the judge granted summary judgment to the defendants.

Litigation Status

Although the MDL Court dismissed all cases regarding the five remaining cancers, the decision by Judge Rosenberg does not end the litigation. The plaintiffs’ lawyers plan to appeal, and drugmakers are still facing ten of thousands of state-court lawsuits regarding the link between Zantac and a variety of cancers.

Required Expert Specialities

Related Research Guides & Resources

Philips CPAP and Mechanical Ventilator Injuries

Medical equipment company Philips, a large manufacturer of sleep and respiratory care devices, issued a recall in June 2021 of Bi-Level PAP, CPAP, and mechanical ventilator devices using the PE-PUR sound abatement foam. The recall occurred after internal investigations determined that the foam compound may break down into particles that can enter the device’s air pathway and be ingested or inhaled by the user, releasing toxic and cancer-causing debris into patients. The FDA reported that such exposure could cause serious health problems for patients including skin, eye, respiratory tract irritation, and inflammation. Other health problems include headaches, asthma, vomiting, adverse impacts on kidneys and livers, and toxic carcinogenic effects.

By October of 2021, plaintiffs had filed dozens of Philips CPAP device personal injury and class action lawsuits. The lawsuits were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Litigation Status

As of November 2022, Philips CPAP, BiPAP, and ventilator machine users were reporting injuries and deaths in the thousands while cancer-related lawsuits against Philips continued to climb. A report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showed that the agency had received more than 90,000 medical device reports attributed to recalled ventilator machines, including 260 reports of deaths.

As of December 2022, there are more than 340 pending lawsuits in Pennsylvania federal court related to the Philips ventilator recall and related injuries.

Required Expert Specialities

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Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease

Paraquat is among the most widely used agricultural compounds in the world. It has been actively marketed for 60 years since its discovery as an effective herbicide in 1962 and its introduction to US markets in 1964. Paraquat’s use spans 50 varieties of crops in more than 120 countries. It is currently banned or disallowed in 32 countries, including the European Union.

In recent years, a renewed focus on Paraquat-derived toxicity was driven by a 2011 NIH study that links mitochondrial damage (such as that known to be caused by Paraquat) to increased rates of Parkinson’s disease. The study found that farmworkers received a Parkinson’s diagnosis at a rate of 2.5 times higher than those not exposed to the chemical. The authors of the study also noted that exposure was not limited to occupational or agricultural environments, broadening the potential reach of exposure. Paraquat poisoning can also cause serious health problems including kidney, lung, liver, and heart failure.

In June 2021, the federal cases related to Paraquat were centralized as part of a multidistrict litigation due to common questions of fact and law raised by the lawsuits. The MDL was consolidated before U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois.

Litigation Status

An aggressive pretrial schedule set by Judge Rosenstengel was supposed to see the first Paraquat Parkinson’s lawsuit go before a jury in November 2022. However, as of early December 2022, the start date for the trial was pushed back to October 2023 due to uncontrollable circumstances that resulted in the need for a further delay.

Currently, there are more than 2,000 product liability cases that have been filed in the federal courts against Syngenta and Chevron. The cases all raise similar allegations and claim the companies failed to warn farmers and Paraquat users about the risks of Parkinson’s disease even when all recommended safety precautions for using Paraquat are followed.

Required Expert Specialities

Related Research Guides & Resources

Elmiron and Permanent Vision Loss

First approved by the FDA in 1996, Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate) is a prescription drug used by millions for the treatment of a painful bladder condition known as interstitial cystitis. In 2019, doctors at Emory Eye Center in Atlanta began noticing a strange type of damage to the macular region of the eye in a number of patients. This new ophthalmic disease, known as pigmentary maculopathy, was eventually linked to long-term Elmiron use. The consequences of this eye disease range from moderate visual impairment to permanent blindness in certain visual fields of the eye.

Further studies reaffirmed the Emory results and found a clear connection between multi-year Elmiron use and the development of pigmentary maculopathy. Middle-aged to elderly females were found to be especially susceptible to this outcome. Elmiron vision damage lawsuits pending in federal courts were consolidated in December 2020 into a multidistrict litigation. The Elmiron class action MDL was assigned to Judge Brian Martinotti in the District of New Jersey.

Litigation Status

When the MDL was established in late 2020, there were less than 100 cases pending in federal courts. As of December 2022, there are more than 1,700 pending cases, with many cases added in the first half of 2022.

Under Judge Martinotti, fact discovery was completed in the Spring of 2022 and three cases were selected for the initial bellwether trials. The first bellwether trial, the Windham case, was originally scheduled for January of 2023 but was recently postponed until late March. The two additional bellwether cases will be tried shortly after.

Required Expert Specialities

  • Retinal ophthalmology
  • FDA Drug Safety

Related Research Guides & Resources

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