America has seen a fair share of class action lawsuits arising from corporate negligence and failure to warn. Technically, this legal course allows lawyers to fight cases on behalf of a larger group who suffered similar losses. Class actions teach a lesson to big corporations and sometimes change how the industry functions.
In these lawsuits, defendants are forced to pay millions or billions in total to settle claims of personal injury or wrongful death. For instance, Volkswagen was scrutinized for falsifying green credentials for its diesel vehicles to increase sales in America. When everyone caught wind of this, the company had to pay USD 14.7 billion to settle a class action.
In this blog, we will discuss three class action lawsuits that brought positive changes in the medical, firefighting, and tobacco industries.
Initially, the aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) was very effective in suppressing Class B fuel fires. AFFF had a unique chemical composition that created a film over the fires to cut off the oxygen and cool it down. Hence, it became widely used by the military, airport officials, industrial workers, etc.
However, recent reports have linked AFFF exposure to various health issues, like cancer and neurological problems. These reports show that AFFF contains a forever chemical called per-and-poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This chemical can remain in the environment and human body for prolonged periods, leading to health complications.
Unfortunately, the manufacturers hid the presence of PFAS in AFFF for many years. As a result, thousands of workers and firefighters developed cancer, asthma, liver damage, fertility issues, etc. When the victims learned of this negligent behavior, they filed AFFF lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors. These plaintiffs now seek compensation for medical expenses, emotional damages, permanent disability, loss of wages, etc.
According to TruLaw, victims can receive compensation only for physical damages, lost earning ability, and medical costs. Moreover, the legal industry believes individual compensation can be between USD 150,000 and USD 500,000.
Lesson for the firefighting foam industry: Manufacturers shouldn’t hide the side effects of any chemical in the fire extinguishers they sell. Otherwise, they’ll be liable for intentionally injuring people who used them without knowing the side effects.
Back in the late 1990s, tobacco companies were lying to young Americans about the deadly effects of cigarettes and secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoking was at its peak during that time, and 36.4% of youngsters smoked. As a result, many developed health issues, which significantly affected the cost of public health systems.
Soon, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed lawsuits against tobacco brands like Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds for failing to warn about health problems. In 1998, the U.S. government passed the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement aimed at reducing smoking among young people. It also forced tobacco companies to run extensive advertising campaigns to admit the truth about the side effects. These companies eventually paid USD 206 billion as settlements to various U.S. states.
Today, the legal industry considers the tobacco lawsuit the largest civil class action litigation in American history.
Lesson for the tobacco industry: False advertising will only cause companies to lose money in lawsuits eventually. Similarly, harmful substances must be kept away from the young generation. Tobacco manufacturers should make internal documents available to the public and cease advertising practices.
In 1990, the medical industry introduced diet drugs, claiming to change how Americans lose weight. Both fenfluramine and phentermine were appetite suppressants that claimed to help people with severe obesity issues. In theory, these pills could also help fight alcohol and drug addiction.
Due to such attractive promises, six million Americans used the fen-phen diet drugs for quick results, even though they weren’t FDA-approved. However, researchers soon found out how deadly these pills really were, leading to their ban.
Unfortunately, people on this pill developed fatal heart valve damage, and others lost their lives to heart attacks. Once the victims and their families learned that the manufacturers knew about the side effects, they filed a pharmaceutical product liability lawsuit. These lawsuits were later settled for almost USD 3.75 billion.
Lesson for the medical industry: Rushing a drug onto the market without proper tests and authorization can cause widespread chaos. Similarly, manufacturers and distributors can go bankrupt if they aren’t transparent about their product’s side effects.
In summary, class action lawsuits help the plaintiffs get what they deserve and bring about social changes. Lawyers with experience in class action lawsuits are truly improving America by showcasing the importance of such litigation. For example, the magnitude of these lawsuits can significantly impact the public interest and force other companies to change their ways.
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