A product liability lawsuit can happen for many reasons including product defects, false advertising, contaminants, mislabeling, health risks, wrongful death, and more. Some of the largest lawsuits in America are product-liability lawsuits. The biggest monetary awards are usually from class action lawsuits.
A class action lawsuit is a type of legal case where a group of injured parties, who are making similar claims, agree to participate in a single lawsuit that represents the group. By joining a class action, the individuals forgo their right to sue for damages separately. If the lawsuit is successful, each party gets a portion of the settlement or judgment after paying the legal fees and expenses.
The party defending the lawsuit may agree to a settlement, which does not require taking the case to trial. Or, the case may go to trial and the outcome may be decided by either a judge or a jury. The decision in a case that goes to trial is called a judgment.
A judgment is subject to being appealed. Appeals can be made all the way through the state court system, federal court system, and ultimately to the Supreme Court of the state (if the case is under state law) or the Supreme Court of the United States (if the case is adjudicated under federal law).
Here are some of the product-liability class actions in America with large settlements:
- General Motors (GM) – $400 million: In 2014, GM was subject to a class-action because some of its vehicles had faulty ignition switches that turned off while the vehicles were operating. This caused drivers to lose control of the vehicle when the power steering and brakes failed. Death and injury increased when the air-bags did not inflate on impact. There were 31 serious accidents with 13 deaths caused by this problem. GM recalled 23 million cars in 2014 and set up a $400 million fund to pay for the damages.
- Owen Corning- $1.2 billion settlement: This 1998 case represented over 176,000 plaintiffs who claimed to have contracted a disease called mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos.
- Dow Corning – $2 billion settlement: This case from 1998 came from silicone breast implants that allegedly ruptured while inside the body causing injury, disfiguration, and death.
- Merck & Co. – $4.85 billion settlement: This settlement was paid for the patients who had heart attacks after taking the pharmaceutical Vioxx that was produced by Merck.
- R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, and Lorillard – $145 billion settlement: This 2006 class action against three tobacco companies claimed that deaths were caused by cigarette smoking prior to any warnings being printed on the packaging.
It is important to note that early participation in a product liability lawsuit, with representation by the competent legal counsel of Saunders & Walker, helps protect your rights.
The Largest U.S. Product Liability Cases