Leading legal publication Law360 is closely watching several cases whose outcomes it believes could impact future litigation. Beasley Allen lawyers are involved in much of this litigation. Here’s a look at the cases they’re watching the second half of 2019:
Oklahoma Opioid Trial
Johnson & Johnson is facing off against Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter in a landmark trial – the first of about 2,000 opioid lawsuits filed by states and municipalities holding drug companies accountable for fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic. Originally, the lawsuit had also named Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Purdue, makers of the potent opioid OxyContin, agreed to pay $270 million to settle the case against it. Teva ponied up $85 million just days before the trial date. Johnson & Johnson decided to hedge its bets in the courtroom.
Oklahoma is blaming Johnson & Johnson for creating a public nuisance by falsely marketing its opioids in the state, leading to addictions, overdose deaths and economic damages. According to the state’s law, public nuisances are illegal actions that annoy, injure, or endanger the “comfort, repose, health, or safety of others.” Other state attorneys general have brought similar public nuisance claims against opioid makers and distributors, and will be closely following the outcome of the trial.
The first bellwether trial in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) brought by more than 1,900 local governments accusing opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies for downplaying the risks of addiction and causing a crisis in their communities starts Oct. 21 in Ohio. The first trial involves the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit.
Some of the municipalities and counties in the MDL have proposed a novel and somewhat unorthodox approach as a path to a global settlement that would expand the number of local governments eligible for compensation in the federal litigation so that potentially every city and county in the United States receives a payout as part of a settlement with the largest opioid companies.
U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster, charged with overseeing the MDL, has pushed for both parties to reach a settlement agreement that offers both immediate and long-term solutions for the damage caused by the opioid crisis.
Beasley Allen is representing Alabama and Georgia against both manufacturers and distributors of opioids for increased costs related to the opioid epidemic. These lawsuits allege the crisis was created by the pharmaceutical industry, which instead of investigating suspicious orders of prescription opiates, turned a blind eye in favor of making a profit. They intentionally misled doctors and the public about the risks of these dangerous drugs, and state governments are left struggling to cope with the consequences. For more information about this litigation, contact Rhon Jones or Jeff Price in our Toxic Torts section.
The firm also is investigating cases involving opioid-related deaths and overdose requiring hospitalization, as well as cases involving treatment for addiction to prescription opioids. For more information about this litigation, contact Melissa Prickett, Roger Smith or Liz Eiland in our Mass Torts section.
Boeing 737 Max
Lawsuits against Boeing continue to mount following the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people in March and the Lion Air crash that killed 189 people in October 2018. Both involved Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft. The planes have been grounded worldwide since March 13. The lawsuits brought by family members of those killed have been consolidated in Illinois federal court.
In June, Beasley Allen attorney Mike Andrews filed a lawsuit against Boeing on behalf of a widow of a passenger killed during the Ethiopian Airlines crash. The lawsuit alleges Boeing designed a dangerous and defective aircraft, coerced regulators into approving it, and deceived the public about its safety.
“Boeing’s actions were more than mere mistakes, they were conscious and deliberate decisions that were motivated by greed,” Andrews said. “The two MAX tragedies not only claimed the lives of 346 people and devastated those families, they also spawned economic challenges such as those implicated in this lawsuit and many others affecting airlines and global economies.”
Mike is a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section. He focuses much of his practice on aviation accident litigation. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. He also has written a book on the subject to assist other aviation lawyers, “Aviation Litigation & Accident Investigation.” The book offers an overview to the practitioner about the complexities of aviation crash investigation and litigation.
Johnson & Johnson continues to face off in courtrooms across the country over claims its talcum powder is contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos and contributed to consumers’ mesothelioma diagnoses.
On June 12, a California jury hit Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive with a near-$12 million in compensatory damages after finding that the companies’ talc-containing products caused plaintiff Patricia Schmitz to develop deadly mesothelioma. The jury was charged with setting punitive damages in the case.
Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier were hit with a $29.5 million verdict over similar claims. In May, Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier were hit with a $325 million verdict by a New York jury which found the companies’ talc caused Donna Olson’s asbestos-related cancer.
Beasley Allen represents clients diagnosed with mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases. For more information about asbestos litigation, contact our lead mesothelioma attorney Sharon Zinns.
3M Earplug MDL
Last summer, 3M Co. agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle a whistleblower False Claims Act lawsuit alleging the company knowingly sold defective earplugs that caused solders to develop tinnitus and hearing loss. In April, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation sent hundreds of suits to Florida federal court to be overseen by U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers.
3M Combat Arms Earplugs are designed to protect military personnel against loud impulse noises, while allowing them to still hear critical verbal commands. These dual-ended earplugs are made to fit snugly in the ear canal. The lawsuits alleged that 3M knew the earplugs were too short to be properly inserted, but the company continued to sell the defective products to the military. This defect caused the earplugs to loosen and push out of the ear, allowing loud noise to damage the ear canal.
Beasley Allen lawyers are investigating claims related to defective combat earplugs manufactured by Minnesota-based 3M Company. The earplugs were issued to thousands of military personnel serving in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and used in training exercises in the United States. For more information, contact Rhon Jones or Will Sutton in our Toxic Torts section.