History of Mass Torts: An Evolution of Mass Tort Litigation

Explore the evolution and history of mass torts, the impact of landmark cases, and the complexities met by personal injury attorneys.
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    From Beginnings: An Overture to Mass Torts

    The recent surge of mass tort cases within the U.S. legal framework can be traced back to factors like the consolidation of consumer service and product providers and the advent of increased public connectivity. The dawn of modern mass tort litigation can be traced back to the transformative era of the 1960s and 70s.

    Agent Orange: An Infamous First

    A pivotal case within this nascent field was tied to the use of toxic herbicide Agent Orange by the U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War. The decision to hold the corporations manufacturing Agent Orange accountable rather than the government marked a novel approach in such cases, therefore garnering significant attention.

    The 1980s: A Surge in Litigation

    Mass tort cases further crystallized in the public consciousness during the 1980s, primarily due to litigation related to asbestos exposure and questionable practices within the tobacco industry. These disputes examined the distribution and marketing of dangerous substances laying the groundwork for future legal policymaking.

    Medical Mass Torts: The Rise and Impact

    As the calendar turned, the focus shifted toward medical mass tort cases. One such high-profile instance revolved around silicone breast implants, which led to near bankruptcy for the involved companies. Pharmaceutical firms also fell under this apparent microscope, notably with the repercussions faced by Merck for their pain medication, Vioxx.

    Turmoil in Pharmaceuticals: The Case of Vioxx

    The revelation of Vioxx’s association with increased risks of heart attacks, strokes, and over 38,000 deaths led to a barrage of civil liability cases and potential criminal charges. It resulted in Merck compensating its victims for over $5 billion in damages.

    Current Mass Torts in West Virginia

    West Virginians are currently the victims of several defective products that have caused injury.  Key recent cases include:

    Phillips Recall

    Recently, West Virginia has seen a surge in litigation tied to a recall by Philips Respironics, a prominent global supplier of sleep apnea machines and ventilators. In June 2021, Philips announced a recall of millions of Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (Bi-Level PAP), Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), and mechanical ventilator devices. 

    This was due to possible health risks linked to a sound-abating foam component in these devices. The firm indicated that degradation of the foam, potentially exacerbated by high heat and humidity, could lead to harmful particle and gas emissions. This has led to an influx of lawsuits from users of these devices and families of loved ones who suffered severe ailments or lost their lives. Were you affected? Our Phillips recall attorneys are here to fight for you.

    RoundUp Litigation

    In West Virginia, like many other states, Monsanto’s RoundUp weed killer has been at the center of multiple lawsuits. Plaintiffs claim that glyphosate, the primary ingredient in RoundUp, has caused them to develop Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer.

    The litigants argue that Monsanto failed to adequately warn the public about the risks associated with exposure to glyphosate. As a result, many West Virginians who used RoundUp regularly in their gardens, yards, or as part of their employment now find themselves embroiled in a battle for justice and compensation. Do you think you were affected? Contact our Roundup attorneys today for a free case review.

    Who Handles Mass Tort Cases?

    Mass tort cases are managed by personal injury attorneys who specialize in the complex field of mass tort litigation. Here’s a closer look at what that entails:

    Personal Injury Attorneys: Mass tort lawsuits often emerge from situations where many individuals have been harmed due to the wrongful action or negligence of a corporation or entity. The legal aspect of these cases typically falls under personal injury law, a sphere handled by personal injury attorneys.

    Specialization in Mass Tort Litigation: Within the domain of personal injury law, mass tort litigation is a specialized field. Dealing with a mass tort case requires an understanding of multidistrict legislation procedures, class actions, and complex scientific evidence. The attorney needs to effectively navigate vast amounts of data from multiple plaintiffs, medical reports, and scientific studies.

    Team Approach: Given the complex nature of mass tort cases, they are often handled not by individual attorneys but by teams of lawyers. These attorneys might work together in one law firm or may form a collaboration between multiple firms to pool their resources and expertise. This collaborative effort helps in managing the sheer scale and intricacies of mass tort cases.

    Skills and Experience: Mass tort attorneys must have a strong foundational understanding of personal injury law and adept handling of complex medical and scientific evidence. They also are experienced in negotiating with corporations and insurance companies. They pursue these settlements to provide fair compensation for their client’s family, health, or financial losses.

    Remember, when you’re confronting a mass tort case, working collaboratively with an experienced attorney can be instrumental in achieving a successful outcome. Our dedicated team of lawyers possesses the necessary experience and skills in mass tort litigation to offer personalized and efficient legal representation.

    We’re Here for You

    Navigating the complexities of mass tort litigation requires the guidance and expertise of seasoned professionals. Our experienced West Virginia attorneys are dedicated to helping you pursue a successful resolution in your personal injury case. We believe in delivering compassionate and effective legal representation tailored to the individual needs of each client.

    Don’t wait any longer to enlist the support you need and deserve. Schedule your free consultation today by calling us at 304-842-4300 or filling out the form. Our team is available 24/7, and we’re eager to work alongside you to fight for justice and secure the best possible outcome for your case.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Here are a few of the top questions we get asked most about mass tort litigations in West Virginia. If you still have a question, feel free to contact and we’d be happy to help.

    What is a Multi-District Litigation?

    A multi-district litigation (or “MDL”)  typically arises when numerous individuals suffer harm or injury due to the action or negligence of a corporation or large entity. The affected persons (plaintiffs) can institute independent lawsuits that are consolidated for pretrial proceedings through a legal mechanism known as multidistrict litigation (MDL).

    What’s the Difference Between a Multi-District Litigation and a Class Action?

    While both a mass tort and a class action involve multiple plaintiffs, they are different types of legal proceedings. In a class action, the plaintiffs are grouped into a single class, and the case outcome applies to everyone. In a mass tort, each plaintiff’s case remains distinct, thereby enabling individual variations in evidence, injury severity, and compensation.

    What Types of Cases Fall Under Mass Tort Litigation?

    Mass tort litigation can include a broad range of cases, including but not limited to pharmaceuticals and medical devices that cause harm, consumer products that are faulty or dangerous, large-scale environmental disasters leading to injuries, and occupational exposures leading to harm, among others.

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    About the Editor

    Kevin Kaufman
    Kevin Kaufman

    A 1977 Bridgeport High School graduate, received multiple scholarships including a National Merit Scholarship. He went on to earn a BS in Business Administration, an MBA, and a law degree from West Virginia University.

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    About the Author

    Kevin Kaufman
    Kevin Kaufman

    Kevin S. Kaufman is a 1977 graduate of Bridgeport High School, where he received a National Merit Scholarship, a Consolidated Natural Gas Company full scholarship, and a West Virginia Achievement scholarship. Mr. Kaufman completed his education at West Virginia University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, an MBA, and his law degree.

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