7 Major Product Liability Lawsuits of the Past Decade

August 5, 2020 | By DJC Law Attorneys
7 Major Product Liability Lawsuits of the Past Decade

One of the most common types of personal injury lawsuits involves defective products, and the number of case filings continues to grow. Victims filed 29% more product liability cases in 2019 than in 2018.

Manufacturers are responsible for making sure their products are safe for consumer use. When a victim is injured because a manufacturer failed to create a safe product or provide adequate warnings, the manufacturer is liable for the victim’s damages.

Because defective consumer products often involve numerous victims, product liability lawsuits can get quite large. Here we discuss seven of the most extensive product liability cases of the past decade.

1. Transvaginal Mesh Lawsuits

In 2012, the first transvaginal mesh lawsuits went to trial, marking the beginning of what would eventually result in the medical device manufacturers paying roughly $1.5 billion in settlements to over 100,000 claimants.

Transvaginal mesh is a net-like medical implant that was commonly used to treat stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. The goal of surgical mesh implants is to support weakened organs and repair damaged tissue; however, transvaginal mesh caused adverse side effects in thousands of women. Claimants allege that manufacturers failed to properly test the device, leading some patients to develop symptoms such as vaginal scarring, fistula formation, and debilitating pain.

2. General Motors Faulty Ignition Switch Lawsuits

In 2014, General Motors (GM) issued a recall of about 800,000 of its vehicles due to faulty ignition switches. Since then, the recall widened to more than 2.6 million vehicles. The ignition switch of the affected cars could cause the engine to shut off while in motion, thus preventing the airbags from inflating in the event of an accident. The faulty ignition switches are responsible for at least 124 deaths and even more injuries.

Though GM issued the first recall in 2014, complainants allege that GM knew of this fatal defect for at least a decade. Due to this negligence, GM had to pay $870 million to settle death and injury claims and $900 million in a settlement with the Department of Justice.

3. Monsanto Roundup Lawsuits

In 2015, the International Agency for Research (IARC) published research on the link between the popular weed killer Roundup and cancer, ultimately concluding that the product was likely carcinogenic. Since then, over 100,000 claims have been filed against the product’s manufacturer, Monsanto, resulting in billions of dollars in settlements for victims. Claimants allege that using roundup caused them to develop cancer and that the manufacturer knew about Roundup’s cancer-causing side effects.

Since the product’s debut, Monsanto has insisted that Roundup is safe, once notably claiming in an advertisement that it is “safer than table salt.” However, the now-renowned Monsanto papers proved that the manufacturer was well aware of Roundup’s risks and chose to hide those facts rather than informing consumers.

In 2019 Bayer acquired Monsanto, and in June 2020 Bayer agreed to pay an additional $10.9 billion in Roundup settlements.

4. Takata Defective Airbag Lawsuits

In 2014, the NHTSA called for the recall of Takata airbags due to their dangerous defects. The airbags used a volatile chemical, ammonium nitrate, as the device’s propellant, which can destabilize when exposed to heat or humidity and cause the airbag to aggressively deploy or even explode and spray metal shrapnel.

These airbags were used by major automakers, such as Honda, Ford, and General Motors, and installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2015, impacting more than 40 million vehicles in the U.S. The airbags have caused at least 16 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Victims allege that not only were the airbags defective but also that Takata was aware of the issue from as early as 2000. As a result of these findings, Takata has been ordered to pay $1 billion to compensate automakers and injured drivers for losses.

5. 3M Hearing Loss Lawsuits

In July 2018, Minnesota-based company 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations of knowingly selling defective dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. military. The military also alleged that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew about the defect and had tampered with testing data to hide the flaw.

Since then, over 100,000 claimants have joined lawsuits against 3M. Victims allege that the manufacturer made false safety claims about their earplugs, causing tinnitus and hearing loss in users.

6. Talcum Powder Cancer Lawsuits

In 2018, Reuters released information stating that pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson was aware that their talcum powder products were contaminated with asbestos but failed to warn consumers. Asbestos is a carcinogenic mineral often found alongside talc in underground deposits, often causing contamination when mining talc.

Complainants allege that their use of asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products caused them to develop cancer, particularly ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Litigation is still on-going for talcum powder lawsuits, but some victims have already started to see positive results.  In June 2020, a Missouri court ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $2.1 billion to women who claimed the company’s products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

7. Zantac Cancer Lawsuits

Zantac, a popular heartburn medicine, and its generic counterparts have been linked to an increased risk for cancer in users. These products contain ranitidine, an antacid meant to treat gastroesophageal issues. However, research has shown that ranitidine drastically increases the levels of the cancer-causing impurity, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), in the body.

In September 2019, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Zantac would be investigated after they discovered 3,000 times greater the amount of NDMA in the tablets than the recommended daily intake limit; manufacturers started issuing voluntary recalls shortly after. The FDA officially recalled ranitidine on April 1, 2020.

Litigation is still pending on Zantac lawsuits, but it is undoubtedly ramping up to be one of the largest product liability lawsuits we’ve seen.

If You’ve Been Injured By a Defective Product, Speak to an Attorney Today

It is a manufacturer’s duty to ensure that their product is safe for consumer use, and they should be held accountable should they fail.

You may be entitled to compensation. Defective products can cause bodily harm, leading to substantial financial losses due to medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost income. Retaining a skilled product liability lawyer is essential for holding manufacturers accountable and ensuring you receive maximum compensation.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective product, contact us today for a free case evaluation.