Many people throughout the world love to think of Americans as lovers of lawsuits. A lot of the most famous cases were against manufacturers of products that were thought to cause a victim to develop cancer. These famous cases have awarded compensation for any illness or death a plaintiff suffered and punitive damages. Many people have been given millions of dollars.
The following are 3 of the most important product liability cases of the last quarter century which resulted in consumers dying of cancer and enormous compensation granted in court.
Last year Monsanto lost a case brought by Dewayne Johnson over his exposure to the weed killer Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate. The chemical caused him to get Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was awarded $39 million in compensation with an additional $250 million in punitive damages although this portion was reduced to $39 million on appeal. This has led to thousands of lawsuits against Roundup
being filed since the case was tried.
Monsanto’s internal memos proved they knew for years that glyphosate was dangerous, plus the World Health Organization classified the chemical as possibly being carcinogenic to humans in 2015. Monsanto was purchased by Bayer AG right before the trial and the results of the case were partly why Bayer scrapped the Monsanto name. Changing a product’s name is one of the most common practices companies use to distance themselves from the stigma of losing a case like this.
Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder
2018 also saw Johnson & Johnson being sued because over the last 40 years their baby and body powders contained asbestos, which caused ovarian cancer. 22 women and their families won $4.7 billion in damages because they developed cancer which so far has killed 6 of the plaintiffs. There have been over 9,000 new cases brought against Johnson & Johnson since this ruling. The case marke one of the biggest punitive damages amounts given in a product liability case, resulting in Johnson & Johnson losing 1.4% of their net worth overnight.
Many lawsuits have resulted from the five major tobacco companies manufacturing products they knew were dangerous, but hid ingredients from consumers. It began with the landmark Engle case in 2000, when Dr. Howard Engle was awarded $145 billion because he died from cancer although the case was overturned on appeal. This case made it easier for future plaintiffs to sue the tobacco companies because now they wouldn’t have to prove the tobacco companies were selling a dangerous product.
Later in 2011,the family of Charlotte Douglas was awarded $2.5 million in compensation after she died from lung cancer. This verdict was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court where they sided with the Douglas family, making all future tobacco lawsuits a state legal issue. It also meant that to win a case plaintiffs only had to prove they couldn’t stop smoking due to being addicted to tobacco. There have been thousands of cases brought to court since with multiple billions of dollars in damages awarded.
While the negative perception that Americans love to take people to court probably won’t change anytime soon, the increase in all these product liability cases is ultimately a good thing. Tort lawsuits force businesses to warn customers if a product has any potential dangers. This also makes companies improve their products so they are safer to consume. Losing a loved one is difficult but knowing where to place blame combined with a generous compensation makes the death of a loved one easier to cope with.