Actions like engaging in less than stellar business practices, defective products, false advertising, environmental accidents can often hurt large groups of American people. Thankfully, the government provides a pathway to consumer protection when businesses negatively impact public safety and consumer rights. Class action lawsuits obtain justice for citizens via government-filed lawsuits or direct personal gain for individuals within consumer groups who file class-action lawsuits.
You could potentially gain compensation from a product or situation that caused damage, pain or suffering, without filing a lawsuit on your own. You’ve probably heard about some of the largest class-action lawsuits and settlements in US history. Let’s take a look at the results of several cases that top the list.
The Big Tobacco Settlement: the Largest Class-Action Case in American History
Big Tobacco had to give up the most when it comes to the largest lawsuit settlements of all time in the United States. The settlement, reached in 1998, was between the four largest cigarette manufacturers in the US and the attorneys general of 46 states, five territories of the US, and the District of Columbia.
The agreement entailed that the tobacco companies pay over $206 billion to the states included in the settlement. The payout was to take place over the course of 25 years – with another $9 billion per year added in perpetuity. The only four states that didn’t sign the agreement were Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas. Those states obtained their own tobacco settlements.
In addition, the $206 billion settlement included $1.5 billion designated to fund an anti-smoking campaign as well as including stipulations on tobacco marketing, including restrictions on youth targeting, brand name sponsorship of events, and other types of advertising and promotion.
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A Government-Filed Class-Action Suit Held BP Oil Accountable for the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana in April of 2010. The incident resulted in the death of 11 workers, and an additional 17 were injured. Thousands of barrels of oil continued to leak into the gulf for months. BP estimated the volume at 1,000 barrels per day. The US Government believed it peaked at more than 60,000 barrels per day.
This, the largest maritime oil spill in history, resulted in a huge oil slick of more than 57,000 square miles, polluting over 1,100 miles of shoreline. The lawsuit filed by the federal government and five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico reached a settlement with BP totaling $20 million in October 2015.
The EPA’s Class-Action Lawsuit Earned Compensation for Volkswagen Owners
In 2019, German automaker Volkswagen reached a settlement concerning a lawsuit that claimed the company installed “defeat devices” allowing over 500,000 of its diesel vehicles to automatically detect the conditions of an emissions test. The device enabled the vehicles to deceive emissions regulators.
The $14.7 billion dollar settlement of the Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit filed in 2016 included a $10 billion dollar buyback provision for those who had purchased vehicles containing “defeat devices”. Payments and emission fixes were made available to car owners who wanted to keep their vehicles. The damages had an ongoing impact on Volkswagen.
Enron Securities Shareholders Received Compensation for Their Losses via a Class-Action Case
Shareholders of the bankrupt company, Enron, who purchased their stock from September 1997 to December 2001, received payouts in a $7.2 billion settlement. The case took years to settle, but in 2008, the well-publicized scandal came to a conclusion when justice was awarded to its victims.
The company was found guilty of misrepresenting its expected earnings, as they did in partnership with Blockbuster’s video-on-demand, and using “special purpose vehicles” to hide debt and losses. Their elusive actions had been exposed by analysts,
Visa/MasterCard Antitrust Settlement Benefitted Merchants
This lawsuit was a continuation of a case filed in 2005, settled in 2012 but rejected under the premise that it limited the ability of merchants to file lawsuits in the future. The lawsuit’s gain was realized by merchants from Visa, Mastercard, and a list of banks which included Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase and Co., and Bank of America. The $6.2 billion settlement of 2018 was $900 million greater than the 2012 settlement.
WorldCom Found Guilty of Inflating Assets
Investors found justice when long-distance telephone company WorldCom settled for $6.1 billion in a class-action lawsuit that found the company guilty of inflating assets. The company name was changed to MCI and it is now owned by Verizon.
Consumers Protected by Fen-Phen Settlement Prompted by a Mayo Clinic Study
A class-action case in 2000 held American Home Products, maker of the diet drug fenfluramine – “Fen-Phen” – used by over 6 million consumers, accountable to the tune of $3.75 billion. The company, which later changed its name to Wyeth, sold the drug until a Mayo Clinic study linked it to potential heart damage.
Native American Land Trust Settlement Helps Individual Native Americans
In 2009, the federal government settled a 13-year lawsuit for $3.4 billion over mismanagement of income from lands held in trust for Native Americans under an agreement that anticipated profits from the lands would go to individual Native Americans. The government was accused of allowing profitable activities like oil drilling to take place on Native American lands held in their trust, without distributing income as intended.
In 2010, the US Congress designated funds for a Land Buy-Back Program and a fund for scholarships for American Indian and Alaska Native students.
Cendant Corporation Guilty of Accounting Fraud, Shareholders Benefit
Travel and real estate company, Cendant Corporation, settled a case filed in 1998 for $3.2 billion in 2006. Accused of inflating stock prices by more than $500 million, the stock price dropped by over $14 billion in one day.
Company accountant Casper Sabatino blew the whistle but still went to jail along with other company executives. In 2007, Cendant Corporation’s name was changed to Avis Budget Group.
Breast Implant Settlement by Dow Corning Resulted in Payouts to Victims of Complications
In 1998, Dow Corning Corporation settled a class-action lawsuit benefiting 170,000 women. Those who filed the lawsuit, which netted over $3.2 billion, claimed the company’s silicone breast implants caused illness and injuries ranging from surgical complications, to rupture, rheumatoid arthritis, and additional ailments.
These ten largest class-action lawsuits and settlements in US history resulted in impressive settlements that obtained justice for the general public and resulted in payouts to victims of investment fraud, and consumers harmed by faulty products. Many consumers don’t realize they have recourse if they and others have received unfair treatment, or if a popular product has been misrepresented or caused problems for many consumers.
If You Have a Class-Action Case, Reach Out to Us Today
If you can prove you suffered significant damage, along with a number of other citizens, from an unscrupulous business practice or defective product, you may be able to join or initiate a class-action lawsuit. Contact Morris Bart, your official injury lawyer, today, to discuss your legal options. A free case evaluation is one click or call away.
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