Landmark Decisions in Mass Tort Cases

  • March 1, 2024


Mass tort cases often make headlines due to their scale and the number of plaintiffs involved. Mass tort is a civil action involving numerous plaintiffs against one or a few defendants. The outcome of such cases can set a precedent that impacts future similar cases. Here, we outline some landmark decisions in mass tort cases that have influenced the landscape of mass tort law.

Asbestos Cases

During the mid 20th century, millions of US citizens were exposed to asbestos, leading to plenty of mass tort lawsuits. One of the most influential rulings was the case of Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation, in 1973. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that manufacturers have a duty to warn about the potential dangers of asbestos.

Tobacco Litigation

In 1998, 46 US states filed lawsuits against the four largest cigarette manufacturers in the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. It stands as the largest civil litigation in US history with a settlement of $206 billion spread over 25 years, and stricter regulations for tobacco advertising.

British Petroleum (BP) Oil Spill

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, often termed as the BP oil spill, led to one of the largest mass tort litigations in history. BP agreed to a $4.5 billion settlement in fines, the largest of its kind to date, and pled guilty to 11 counts of misconduct or neglect of ship officers, a felony count of obstruction of Congress among others.

The Opioid Crisis

In 2019, two Ohio counties sued four pharmaceutical companies in The National Prescription Opiate Litigation. Johnson & Johnson, one among the defendants, was ordered to pay $572 million for their role in an opioid crisis. This opened a precedent, encouraging more settlements in following Federal and State court cases.

Silicone Gel Breast Implant Litigation

Arguably the most famous mass tort of all time, the silicone gel breast implant litigation involved thousands of women who claimed their implants caused system illnesses. In 1998, Dow Corning declared bankruptcy as it faced liability in the region of $2 billion.


Mass tort cases represent the collective power of plaintiffs against corporate negligence. The landmark decisions made in these cases have not only resulted in massive settlements but also brought crucial changes in industry practices and regulations to prevent future misconduct.


Press ESC to close