Certain lawsuits have received media attention recently. This has prompted additional plaintiffs to come forward as they previously may not have been aware of the side effects of these products and medications. These lawsuits include:
- Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (3M)
- Talcum Powder (Johnson & Johnson)
- Roundup (Bayer-Monsanto)
- Valsartan (Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co.)
- Hernia Mesh (Atrium Medical, Ethicon and C.R. Bard)
- Uloric (Takeda)
Updates on the litigation progress for the above lawsuits are detailed below.
DUAL-ENDED COMBAT ARMS EARPLUGS
3M settled a False Claims Act lawsuit with the government for approximately $9 million. The case was filed by the federal government because 3M defrauded taxpayers by selling the military earplugs that did not meet specifications. Currently, the civil qualified retainers against 3M filed by private plaintiffs are in their initial phases.
The False Claims Act settlement does not necessarily impact private lawsuits that still have to proceed through the court system. 3M did not admit any liability in the False Claims Act settlement. The company has defenses that were not available when it was defending the qui tam lawsuit.
News about the defective earplugs is still being released so qualified retainers are continuing to be filed against 3M. Many veterans are just now learning that the cause of their post-deployment hearing problems may have been linked to the use of 3M earplugs. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed and the number will continue to grow. Many of the qualified retainers have been moved to Florida, where there is now multidistrict litigation. This does not mean that plaintiffs are obligated to bring their qualified retainers there; it only means that the qualified retainers are consolidated for purposes of discovery. There will be several bellwether qualified retainers selected to be tried first so the parties involved can get a sense of how juries will view the claims. These qualified retainers are still very early in their process and discovery.
Recently, Johnson & Johnson has been on the losing end of several jury verdicts in lawsuits that allege that their talcum powder products were contaminated with asbestos and caused ovarian cancer. In July 2018, a group of 23 plaintiffs was awarded a total of $4.7 billion in both compensatory and punitive damages. While these verdicts are staggering, they are often reduced by a trial judge or appeals court.
Since Johnson & Johnson has not fared well in state courts, it has recently made a request to a federal court to move all of the remaining lawsuits, numbering over 2,000, out of state courts and into the federal court. Normally, plaintiffs have a choice whether to bring a lawsuit in state or federal court and defendants cannot easily reverse that choice. Here, the company that has supplied Johnson & Johnson with talc has declared bankruptcy due to the talcum powder lawsuits, and Johnson & Johnson is attempting to take advantage of bankruptcy laws by moving its qualified retainers to a more favorable forum. There are still a total of up to 13,000 lawsuits pending against the company relating to its talc powder acting as a carcinogen. Johnson & Johnson is currently appealing the verdicts against it.
Recent settlements in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder qualified retainers are listed below:
- June 2019 – $4.8 million (Patricia Schmitz v. Johnson & Johnson)
- May 2019 – $300 million (Olson v. Brenntag)
- May 2019 – $25 million (Beth-Anee F. Johnson v. Johnson & Johnson)
- March 2019 – $29 million (Teresa Leavitt, et al v. Johnson & Johnson)
Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller has recently made headlines due to several large jury verdicts against it in California. Plaintiffs have convinced juries that the active ingredient in the product, glyphosate, causes lymphoma in those who have used the product extensively. The company now faces a large number of Roundup lawsuits. Juries have reacted negatively to evidence that the company knew that its product could be dangerous, but attempted to influence scientific studies as opposed to warning the public or pulling the product from the marketplace. The company hired ghostwriters to lend their names and credentials to research that was supplied by the company. Juries have seen years of internal company emails and documents that detail corporate behavior that is less than forthcoming. The company is currently appealing two of the verdicts against it while it prepares for a large number of upcoming trials. The plaintiff whose $289 million verdict was reduced is also seeking to reinstate the verdict, while Monsanto is appealing to have the verdict thrown out.
Recent settlements in Monsanto Roundup qualified retainers are listed below:
- May 2019 – $2 billion (Alva and Alberta Pilliod vs. Monsanto Co.)
- March 2019 – $80 million (Edwin Hardeman v. Monsanto Co.)
- August 2018 – $289 million reduced to $78 million (Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co.)
A popular heart drug, Valsartan is facing a wave of lawsuits after its recall was announced last year. There are about 50 lawsuits being consolidated in a multi-district litigation federal court in New Jersey, including at least 27 patients who claim they have developed cancer from using Valsartan. Thousands more Valsartan lawsuits are expected to be filed against the drug’s manufacturer, Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical Co., and other companies such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Mylan NV, and CVS Health Corp.
Approximately 40 defendants have been sued in Valsartan lawsuits. The multi-district litigation status has only recently been achieved and qualified retainers are still in the development phase. While no settlement verdicts have yet been made, more information about the contaminated drugs lawsuit will be available in the months to come.
The latest hernia mesh lawsuits involve the Atrium C-QUR, Ethicon Physiomesh, and different models of Bard Davol polypropylene hernia mesh. There are thousands of qualified retainers that have been consolidated in the Northern District of Georgia in front of the honorable Judge Richard W. Story. Hernia mesh lawsuits against Ethicon’s Physiomesh Flexible Composite Hernia Mesh are pending in Georgia’s Northern District Court with a trial date set for September 16, 2019.
Thousands more Bard Hernia Mesh lawsuits have been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and will be seen by the honorable Judge Edmund A. Sargus. The court has indicated that as of April 2019 there were 1,720 qualified retainers filed, with about 80 to 100 new lawsuit filings per week. The first bellwether trial is set to begin around May 8, 2020, the second trial is scheduled for July 13, 2020, and the third trial is set for September 14, 2020.
Two recent defective mesh device settlements are listed below:
- May 2019 – $80 million (Mesigian v. Ethicon Women’s Health and Urology)
- March 2018 – $35 million (Kaiser v. Johnson & Johnson)
Information on Uloric lawsuits is still developing as this is a relatively new case. There are currently no settlements or verdicts that have been made and no individual qualified retainers have been consolidated into multi-district litigation. The gout medication is currently labeled with a black box warning, which indicates that Uloric may cause serious and often deadly side effects.
The first claims were made in May 2019 against Takeda. Based on the severity of Uloric’s side effects, settlement verdicts are expected to be high if juries find that Takeda knowingly sold a dangerous drug. Currently, the plaintiffs’ attorneys are in the investigatory phase of filing lawsuits against Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Many more Uloric lawsuits are anticipated to be filed as more information about the harmful drug surfaces and more patients are made aware of the potential eligibility to fight for compensation.
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