An investment in mass tort leads and cases for your law firm can have a significant return on investment if a tort settles claims. Several multi-million and billion-dollar historic large mass tort settlements for dangerous drugs, faulty devices, and environmental contaminants have generated significant revenue for attorneys who invested in proper mass tort case acquisition strategies.
What is a Mass Tort?
A mass tort is a form of civil action that involves several plaintiffs with similar claims against one or multiple defendants. More specifically, a mass tort suit alleges that the defendant committed a wrong to the plaintiffs that resulted in a physical, emotional, and/or psychological injury. Two main examples of mass torts include actions against defendants that caused serious health consequences arising from the use of a dangerous prescription drug and actions against defendants that caused injuries resulting from an oil leak due to a defective medical device.
While many believe that most mass tort actions are filed as class actions, more often these types of lawsuits are filed as multidistrict litigation (MDL) where thousands of individual cases can be tried together.
Largest Mass Tort Settlements & Verdicts
The three main categories of mass tort litigation are mass disaster, toxic exposure, and product liability. Each type of mass tort litigation has led to nationwide settlements and have been in relation to natural disasters, toxic substance exposure, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device manufacturers.
Here are some of the largest mass tort settlements:
Since 2013, over 3,000 lawsuits have been filed against Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the Actos manufacturer. Actos is an anti-diabetic drug that is supposed to control high blood sugar in type-2 diabetes patients. Though the drug was approved by the FDA in 2009, in 2011 the FDA warned consumers that patients who took Actos for more than a year were at a higher risk for bladder cancer. Jack Cooper filed the first lawsuit against Takeda in 2013, however, the judge threw out the $6.5 million jury verdict, stating that the plaintiff failed to show Actos caused the cancer. Nonetheless, in 2015, Takeda Pharmaceuticals settled around 9,000 patient lawsuits for $2.37 billion.
Hip Replacement Settlements
There are a few manufacturers that dominate the hip replacement industry and have each entered mass settlement agreements due to their defective hip replacement products. The manufacturers of the faulty hip replacements caused recipients to experience metallosis (metal toxicity), blood poisoning, chronic pain, revision surgeries, tissue deterioration surrounding the implant, cobalt exposure, and massive economic and non-economic damages. Here are major manufacturers and some of the settlements amounts they’ve paid throughout the last few years:
In 2014 and 2016, Stryker paid $1.4 billion to more than 3,500 plaintiffs for lawsuits filed over its metal-on-metal hip replacements.
Smith & Nephew
Since 2015, Smith & Nephew paid two confidential amounts to settle many of the lawsuits it was involved in. While the amounts were undisclosed, the company set aside $203 million in its annual report to cover lawsuit costs.
Since 2013, DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, paid more than $4 billion in settlements where its metal-on-metal hip replacement products were at the center of lawsuits filed.
In 2014, Biomet paid at least $56 million to settle more than 2,800 lawsuits from the M2a Magnum metal-on-metal devices.
Two settlements happened in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, the company paid $240 million to settle 1,292 lawsuits and in 2017, $90 million to resolve around 600 of the remaining lawsuits.
Roundup Cancer Settlements
Toxic Exposure is a tort that occurs when a group of plaintiffs is exposed to a harmful chemical or substance, causing injury. Pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, and asbestos are examples.
Still facing ongoing claims, Bayer, the owner of the popular Roundup brand known for controlling weeds, has agreed to pay over $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims. The lawsuits allege that Roundup caused users to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.
Bayer, who still argues that Roundup is safe, has set aside $1.25 billion for potential future claims. In earlier decisions, courts held that Bayer and Monsanto, the former manufacturer of Roundup that Bayer bought in 2018, failed to warn consumers of the health risks associated with using the popular weedkiller.
Endo Transvaginal Mesh
Endo, a global pharmaceutical company, became a highly targeted defendant for its transvaginal mesh implants. Claimants argued that the company’s medical device, which is meant to treat urinary incontinence, caused them severe pain and bleeding due to product eruption.
Endo initially agreed to an $830 million dollar settlement and has since made payouts exceeding $2.6 billion due to additional lawsuits filed against it.
In 2004, the FDA recalled a drug called Vioxx produced by Merck. Though it was a pain medication, Vioxx posed a risk for cardiac incidents and led to as many as 38,000 deaths. Plaintiffs filed approximately 60,000 cases against Merck and were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation. By 2013, Merck paid $4.85 billion to settle the remaining cases but did not admit fault.
In 2014, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals paid $650 million to settle more than 2,400 lawsuits filed against it for its product, Pradaxa. The lawsuits alleged that the blood thinner led to severe internal bleeding, injuries and deaths. However, many plaintiffs continue to file cases against the company for injuries after the settlement in 2014. Most recently in November 2020, Boehringer filed a brief in the Connecticut appeals court that it agreed to settle 2,935 lawsuits involving Pradaxa.
Hernia Mesh Manufacturer Settlements
There are currently three MDLs against major hernia mesh manufacturers in the US. One is against Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, another is against Davol, Inc., and the third is against Atrium Medical Corp. While thousands of cases are still pending, there have been thousands of cases that have been settled as well. In 2011, Bard’s Kugel Composix settled more than 2,000 cases for $184 million, with each plaintiff receiving an average of $60,000.
In early 2016, Bayer settled more than 18,000 lawsuits against the company for its birth-control pills, Yaz and Yasmin. The plaintiffs alleged that the birth control caused potentially blood clots, heart issues, strokes, and bladder issues. The company settled by paying $2 billion, however, more claims arose after 2016 and in 2019, Bayer’s financial report indicated they set aside an additional $262.5 million for Yaz and Yasmin lawsuit settlements.
GlaxoSmithKline created Avandia for type-2 diabetes patients, however, the drug was linked to heart attacks and heart problems. The FDA first announced the heart risks in 2007 and since 2010, GlaxoSmithKline has paid more than $770 million to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company. In 2011, the company stated it set aside $3.4 billion to pay for future settlement and litigation costs.
Revenue Production for Law Firms
While it remains without saying that mass tort cases have been pivotal in shaping the legal system and making positive strides in the lives of countless impacted claimants, the ways in which these cases can generate significant revenue for a law firm deserve their own spotlight in the conversation.
Reducing Upfront Costs with Hedge Funds
Private equity firms and hedge funds alike are reaching into their deep pockets to serve as a resource to law firms pursuing mass tort litigation opportunities. Law firms can reduce or eliminate upfront costs associated with bringing large lawsuits and increase their revenue from mass tort cases. Loans from private equity firms and hedge funds or fee splits better position a law firm to be able to focus on a case and clients that they may not otherwise be able to afford to undertake. Investments from hedge funds can support the costs of marketing in these highly competitive niches.
Increase in Mass Tort Claims Due to Marketing
As a component of mass tort suits, attorney marketing groups are bringing significant revenue opportunities to law firms by finding claimants. While it is true that there is a cost associated with hiring or carrying out marketing efforts, the results can be lucrative.
In the midst of Roundup litigation, Bayer acknowledged that in just a short span of four months, attorney marketing efforts more than doubled the number of claimants added to its settlement negotiations.
As the awareness of dangerous drugs, medical devices, and toxic chemicals becomes more widespread, the cost of acquiring quality cases for law firms increases. It is best to source mass tort leads and cases for your law firm early in the litigation process in order to identify the highest quality cases and to keep marketing costs as low as possible.
Using Co-Counsel to Your Advantage
Mass tort suits are well known for being brought by numerous, sometimes dozens of law firms at the same time. Engaging in co-counsel relationships with other firms gives law firms an advantage by allowing one firm to focus on identifying and signing up clients while another firm handles the litigation. This mutually beneficial relationship between referring firms and litigating firms is giving law firms that previously didn’t have an opportunity to participate in mass tort litigation to now acquire an interest in mass tort cases.
Active Mass Tort Opportunities
The companies and lawsuits discussed here represent only a small portion of mass tort defendants that have set aside money for anticipated future lawsuits. Law firms are in a great position to have ongoing opportunities to make claims when new claimants come forth. If your law firm is seeking mass tort clients, contact CAMG to discuss our marketing and mass tort case acquisition strategies.