In May 2023, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) released its statistics report on case filing trends for various product liability mass torts. This report provides valuable insights into the number of new cases filed, the differences compared to the previous period, and the percentage changes for each selected mass tort category. 

In this blog post, we delve into the data to understand the significant trends surrounding some prominent product liability mass torts.

Zantac:

The Zantac mass tort saw a substantial increase in new cases filed in May 2023, with a total of 14,795 cases. This represents a significant difference of 11,534 cases from the previous period, indicating a staggering increase of 353%.  Delaware Superior Court Judge issued a case management order that delineates a process for selecting bellwether plaintiffs and establishes a trial specifically to determine if Zantac causes various forms of cancer. A trial is scheduled for July in the next Zantac lawsuit.  There would be a complete shift in momentum in the litigation if plaintiffs won.

Paraquat:

For the Paraquat mass tort, there were 3,730 new cases filed in May 2023. This reflects a difference of 732 cases compared to the previous period, which translates to a 24% increase.  Following a brief slowdown in new cases at the beginning of the year, the Paraquat class action has rapidly returned to being one of the fastest-growing mass torts. In just the last 10 days, several hundred new cases have been transferred to the MDL.

AFFF:

In May, Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) witnessed the filing of 4,494 new cases. This represents a difference of 436 cases, with a corresponding increase of 11% compared to the previous period. According to the latest report by the Environmental Working Group, cleaning up PFAS contamination at over 50 military bases, caused by the use of AFFF firefighting foam, may cost the U.S. Government over $30 billion, posing a potential threat to local water supply systems. Despite this, the Department of Defense has only allocated $1.4 billion for cleanup expenses.

CPAP:

In May 2023, the CPAP mass tort saw the filing of 518 new cases, indicating a difference of 82 cases from the previous period. This accounts for a significant increase of 19%.

The upcoming two-year anniversary of the Philips CPAP recall marks a critical deadline for potential claimants. Failure to file a lawsuit or register a claim with Philips may result in being barred from pursuing legal action. Philips is likely to argue that the recall announcement triggered the statute of limitations, potentially leaving claims time-barred after June 14th. This passing deadline could make it easier for Philips to offer settlement payouts and attract more plaintiffs. While a settlement is not imminent, it highlights why mass tort cases take considerable time to resolve.

Hair Straighteners:

The mass tort related to hair straighteners saw the filing of 124 new cases in May 2023, with a difference of 78 cases compared to the previous period. This indicates a substantial increase of 59%. 

The Hair Relaxer MDL seems to be moving along at a good pace with a direct filing order already in place. This could well be one of the fastest growing MDLs in 2023 and 2024. Once the bellwether cases are selected, a large number of cases are expected to be filed.

Roundup:

For the Roundup mass tort, there were 4,176 new cases filed in May 2023. The difference of 33 cases compared to the previous period reflects a relatively minimal change of 0.8%. This suggests a relatively stable trend in litigation related to Roundup. Monsanto previously settled tens of thousands of lawsuits involving its Roundup product for an estimated $10 billion. A total of 30,000 lawsuits are currently pending across the country, mostly in state courts. If the jury finds in the Plaintiff’s favor, Monsanto will likely return to the table and resolve the remaining cases.

Talc:

In May 2023, there were 37,543 new cases filed in the Talc mass tort, with a minimal difference of 20 cases, representing a mere 0.05% change. 

Although it is believed by many that the dismissal of J & J bankruptcy is warranted, the court’s ruling in the forthcoming months will be the ultimate determinant. In the event of the bankruptcy’s dismissal, the subsequent course of action remains uncertain.

It is common knowledge that J&J has committed to paying a minimum of $9 billion, with a potential of nearly $13 billion, over the next 25 years. This figure now sets the baseline for negotiations. Considering the circumstances, it is imperative for J&J to be prepared to offer a higher settlement amount to effectively resolve these cases.

Should the bankruptcy be dismissed, J&J will be compelled to carefully contemplate their approach to the ongoing litigation. It can be anticipated that they will initiate inventory settlements, commencing with the firms supporting the bankruptcy, and subsequently addressing the major players individually and systematically.
The May 2023 statistics report by the JPML provides valuable insights into the case filing trends for select products liability mass torts.

The bottom line

The data reveals significant increases in Zantac, Paraquat, AFFF, CPAP, and hair straightener cases, indicating the potential legal battles surrounding these products. On the other hand, Roundup and talc cases showed relatively stable trends.

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