Articles Posted in Mass Tort Cases

In the model years 2009 and 2010, Toyota’s Corolla has been targeted as a dangerous vehicle because of the electric power steering (ETS) system. In fact, two Toyota Corolla owners, one in New York and one in Pennsylvania, filed suit. The Corolla owners have alleged that the steering system’s defect caused their cars to drift out of control. The lawsuits claim that the steering system defect is a serious safety problem and that Toyota was aware of the problem but did nothing to fix it.

It was alleged in the lawsuit that the defect in the electric power steering system caused a driver to spin out of control on a highway, cross the center line into oncoming traffic before crashing into an embankment. The plaintiffs have alleged that the defect in the electric power steering system is significant and widespread, and they seek to have a class certified by the court.

Toyota, on the other hand, has argued that the court should not allow class certification nationwide because the vehicle shares no common problem. Toyota said the defect in the steering system affects only a small number of Corolla owners. Toyota also said it has reviewed the reports of steering problems and has found that the individual complaints may relate to the way steering feels to them or tire conditions on the particular vehicle.

Continue reading

In a case that involved thousands of toxic tort liability cases, the Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that an industrial manufacturer must turn over documents it alleged were privileged to a company indemnifying it.

In March 1999, automotive systems manufacturer BorgWarner Inc. acquired Kuhlman Corp. and its subsidiaries, including Kuhlman Electric Corp (KEC).

Since the 1950s, KEC has operated a facility in Mississippi that produces electrical transformers. As part of the Kuhlman Corp. sale, KEC represented that there was no soil contamination on its Mississippi property.

Continue reading

The U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement with Johnson & Johnson, which is the maker of Risperdal. The settlement of $2.2 billion and a misdemeanor plea comes after a long investigation into the marketing of the pharmaceutical product, Risperdal. It is an anti-psychotic drug known to deliver harmful side effects, especially to young boys and young men most often prescribed the medicine.

In this case, the Department of Justice engaged several whistleblowers around the country to help the investigation and act as Johnson & Johnson informants. In fact, collectively, the whistleblowers will receive upwards of $167 million for their efforts.

The whistleblowers took great risk in assisting the Department of Justice in this investigation. Some of the whistleblowers went undercover, wore a wire, helped in prepping the department lawyers for depositions and otherwise risked their livelihood and their careers.

Continue reading

In a case decided in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Perry v. A.W. Chesterton Inc., it was determined that brakes located onto a rail car are a “part or appurtenance” to a locomotive and therefore the plaintiff’s state law asbestos claims were pre-empted by the federal Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA).  

Alice Perry brought this lawsuit on behalf of her husband, who died of asbestos-related injuries after installing and removing Railroad Friction Products Corp. brake shoes on rail cars.The locomotive is at the front of the train, which pulls the rail cars that carry the cargo of passengers or products.

Perry argued that the specific brakes and brake materials that her husband was exposed to were found only in rail cars and not locomotives. She maintained that her claim was not pre-empted by the LIA, which governs only locomotives.

Continue reading

Phusion Projects Inc. manufactures and distributes the alcoholic beverage Four Loko. The product contains alcohol in addition to caffeine, guarana, taurine and wormwood. Guarana is a plant that has one of the highest concentrations of caffeine in any plant. It’s often used as a supplement to energy drinks, including this one. Taurine is an organic acid or an amino acid that some research shows may be a contributing factor to improved athletic performances. Wormwood is an herb. Some uses of wormwood are said to be for digestive disorders and to increase sexual desires and stimulate the imagination.  Wormwood is also used for healing wounds and countering insect bites. It is also used in some alcoholic beverages, such as vermouth and absinthe. 

Phusion purchased insurance coverage from two members of the Liberty Mutual Group. Both of the insurance policies contained clauses that excluded coverage for bodily injury or property damage when Phusion could be held responsible by reason of causing or contributing to intoxication.

Phusion was sued by five separate plaintiffs. All of them alleged that the consumption of Four Loko caused their injuries in whole or in part.

Continue reading

A settlement agreement that includes claims of more than 1,200 plaintiffs in federal and state courts has been reached with Merck & Co. Inc. to pay $27.7 million related to the bone drug Fosamax. Fosamax has been claimed to have caused a condition known as osteonecrosis of the jaw. Osteonecrosis is a serious bone disease first associated with high doses of bisphosphanates used for oncology patients. Even lower doses of bisphosphanates have been associated with this condition. Fosamax contains some of this product used for patients with bone disorders, such as osteoporosis.

The settlement was reached after a district court judge handling the multidistrict litigation (MDL) ordered 200 cases per month sent back to their home courts for further disposition and trial. None of the transfers had occurred before the settlement was reached. 

This litigation began in 2005 with seven bellwether trials having gone to jury verdicts. Merck was successful in winning five of those cases, but also lost two cases in which the verdicts were $285,000 and $8 million. The latter verdict was later reduced to $1.5 million. This settlement does not include another set of cases alleging that Fosamax causes femur fractures.  Those claims are in a separate multidistrict litigation federal court and are still pending.

Continue reading

Federal District Court Judge Hon. David R. Herndon of the Southern District of Illinois has ordered that Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (BIPI) pay $1 million in sanctions for discovery abuses in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving the oral anticoagulant Predaxa. This same U.S. Federal District Court, also in the Southern District of Illinois, is where many of the country’s  Yasmin and YAZ (Drospirenone)  birth control injury cases are being handled; also in an MDL.

Judge Herndon found that BIPI, the maker of Predaxa, had chosen not to produce thousands of documents to the plaintiffs, which the judge determined was bad-faith conduct. 

According to the order, BIPI and its German parent company were unable to explain why it chose not to produce critical documents and communications by a deadline set by the judge. The deadline was in June 2012. 

Continue reading

The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court has dismissed appeals by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in its attempt to reverse a jury verdict of $8.6 million, which included a very sizable sum for punitive damages. A lawsuit originated in a claim against Wyeth as to its menopause drug, Prempro, which has been associated with women developing breast cancer.  Wyeth had asked the state’s Supreme Court to overturn the September 2013 punitive damages verdict. Wyeth argued that the verdict should be invalidated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) earlier approval of the drug for safe use. 

Wyeth maintained that the appellate court had erred in reinstating the jury verdict that was entered by a Philadelphia jury in 2007 for Mary Daniel, who claimed that the Prempro menopause drug caused her breast cancer. 

Following that jury verdict, the punitive damages were tacked onto a compensatory damage award of $1.7 million.  Ms. Daniel and her husband were the plaintiffs in the case. 

Continue reading