J&J Settlement, PFAS, and One Wheel
Camp Lejeune Update by Attorney Jeff Keiser.
Let’s start with the JPML hearing that took place last week in San Antonio. There were no major pharmaceutical or product liability cases on the docket, but one case could be interesting going forward.
We’ve all seen the ‘OneWheel’ scooter devices roaming our streets over the past years, and beyond the pending MDL (3087), the only question I’ve had about them is mostly about how the driver gets them to stop.
Of all the electric devices that have come out recently, this is one that just looks different. And the basis for the lawsuit stems from the fact that the device has been found to stop without warning, causing injury or even death.
In September of this year, all models of the OneWheel were recalled due to at least four reported deaths, extending to more than 300,000 devices.
This one isn’t likely to be a huge case, but plaintiffs in more than 30 cases already filed have suffered substantial injuries, and these cases may end up having a substantial payout.
My guess is that the JPML will send this to the Central District of Florida.
The upcoming JPML hearing should be more exciting than this one, with the Ozempic gastroparesis cases already on the docket.
Camp Lejeune has been the primary mass tort this year, at least according to advertisers, and we’ve seen some real action in the case. We highlighted some of the details in the last post, but the elective option may end up being a lot of noise more than an actual resolution.
Some major law firms have recommended that most clients reject the EO offer, even if they qualify. There are now more than a thousand cases divided amongst four judges in the Eastern District of North Carolina, and while these cases haven’t moved much, at least they’re out of the administrative process.
My guess is that these will largely end up settled individually, even if the EO doesn’t eliminate a lot of cases. Of course, politics in an election year may end up playing a role in how these cases work out, hopefully with some large awards for plaintiffs.
I don’t think anyone in the federal government wants to see these cases go to trial.
Agreed To Settle
In the hernia mesh area, there’s a lot of exciting news. First, on December 4, Johnson & Johnson agreed to settle 224 of the pending cases in the Georgia Ethicon MDL.
Six months ago, similar settlements resolved 161 of these cases, and it is only a matter of time before the remaining cases end up getting settled. In the Bard hernia mesh MDL, the bellwether trial scheduled for January has been pushed to April.
There have been four bellwethers already, and plaintiffs have won every one of them.
I’m not sure how much more defendants can take before they start negotiating a global settlement. There are still more than 20,000 plaintiffs in the litigation, and more are being added every week.
This is likely to be one of the biggest cases of 2024 as we move towards final resolution.
Good News & Bad News
PFAS cases are a bit of good news/bad news. The state of Ohio recently announced a $110 million settlement with DuPont regarding their use of the so-called ‘forever chemicals.’
This marks a great step forward for state and local municipality cases going forward. But a different court dismissed a class action complaint based on trace amounts of these chemicals found in a person’s blood.
Apparently, the court came to the conclusion that we are all exposed to these chemicals and finding trace amounts in a blood test are simply part of modern life.
Damages in that case were the real hurdle and connecting the right defendant to an individual ended up being an impossibility.
Hair Straightener Ramping Up
Another case that we’re all excited about is the hair straightener litigation, centralized as MDL 3060 in the Northern District of Illinois. While this case is just getting ramped up, the fact that nearly two-thousand cases have been transferred to the MDL in the past few months is pretty eye-opening.
As this case continues to grow, watch for more advertising and legal marketing. This may be a big case for next year, and I think there will be a lot of money for plaintiffs.
Heating Up Next Year
The Bard PowerPort MDL is another new case, but the judge is pushing the case forward hard through a series of CMOs designed to define the discovery and bellwether processes.
I don’t think we’ll see much news in the short term, but things will heat up next year.
Flurry of Activity
The Tylenol Autism MDL is also seeing an end of year burst of action. We may not have ‘news’ per se, but the fact that a settlement conference has been scheduled for January 4, 2024 is big news.
There’s also a Daubert hearing scheduled later in December, which may bring additional news. One way or the other, this case looks to be headed to a global settlement, sooner rather than later.
CPAP Mediator’s Report
One last case that seems to be moving towards its natural conclusion is the CPAP case, where settlement negotiations are ongoing and a hearing to discuss the settlement mediator’s report on the status of personal injury claims will take place in February 2024.
If settlement fails, expect to see trials in the end of 2024 or early 2025. We’ll know more after the final settlement is approved, likely in April.
It’s good to see a little action in these cases after such a lull in news. I started to worry that nothing was ever going to happen.
Maybe the holiday season brought the mass tort gifts that we were all hoping for.
Then again, if The Grinch wins the day, we’ll likely see a third attempt by Johnson & Johnson to escape liability through bankruptcy in the talc litigation, but for now, let’s hope for the best. We’ll be back in the new year with more news.
In the meantime, when you think of mass tort case acquisition, please think of us.
Craig H. Alinder, Vice President