Unforgettable Mass Tort Cases from History

  • March 12, 2024

Mass torts represent cases where numerous plaintiffs lodge claims against one or a few defendants. They often spring from circumstances where the actions or inactions of a single party cause widespread harm. Here are six unforgettable mass tort cases from history.

Agent Orange Case

During the Vietnam War, US military used a herbicide called Agent Orange, leading to severe health problems among veterans. In In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation, the case resulted in a $180 million settlement in 1984 for affected Vietnam War veterans.

The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement

In 1998, The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement was reached between the four largest tobacco companies in America and 46 states. The tobacco companies agreed to pay a minimum of $206 billion over the first twenty-five years for recovery of their Medicaid costs related to tobacco use.

Asbestos and Mesothelioma Litigation

Asbestos exposure has led to countless mass tort cases due to resulting Mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. One of the most significant was a $140 million verdict for 5 workers in Carter v. Honeywell International Inc. in 2002.

The BP Oil Spill

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico led to thousands of lawsuits against BP. In 2012, BP agreed to a settlement estimated at $7.8 billion to resolve these economic and medical claims.

Vioxx Litigation

Pharmaceutical giant Merck faced thousands of lawsuits due its pain-relieving drug Vioxx. After five years of litigation, in 2007, In re Vioxx Products Liability Litigation settled for $4.85 billion.

The Volkswagen Emissions Scandal

Diesel car owners and lease-holders filed lawsuits after Volkswagen admitted to faking emissions test results in 2015. In re: Volkswagen ‘Clean Diesel’ Marketing, Sales Practices, and Product Liability Litigation resulted in a $14.7 billion settlement in 2016.

These mass tort cases highlight the capacity for single entities to cause profound, widespread harm. However, they also underscore the power of collective action to seek justice and hold offending parties accountable.


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