4 Most Notable Mass Tort Cases

Mass tort and class action lawsuits are powerful forms of legal action that can take place when multiple people seek justice for injury or harm in some way against the same defendant. While a class action treats all plaintiffs as one body, mass tort claims treat individuals separately, grouping them together based on the similarity of allegations.
However, it could be that the severity in which plaintiffs are harmed differs, and individual lawsuits may wish to be pursued. Common causes for mass tort lawsuits include harmful side effects from medication and medical treatments, disasters, exposure to toxic substances, and product liability. When mass tort cases of these kind happen, they can have a significant impact on similar future legal action, helping to improve the way they are managed.
Here are 4 notable mass tort cases, where multidistrict litigation has taken place, and resulted in large settlements being made to plaintiffs.

Transvaginal Mesh Implants

A pelvic mesh, otherwise known as a transvaginal mesh, is a medical device used to treat conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse or urinary incontinence in women. However, multiple reports were made of pain, organ damage and infection following the implant among many other side effects. Lawsuits began in 2012, leading to over $8 billion dollars’ worth of settlements being paid to plaintiffs, and ceasing the manufacturing of mesh implants for pelvic organ prolapse, as the side effects and risks involved outnumbered any benefits.

Silicone Breast Implants

Silicone breast implants have been at the center of legal action ever since 1984 with concerns about product liability and medical safety, as the implants are linked to cancer and autoimmune conditions. Plaintiffs have been overwhelmingly successful in receiving settlements. However, the lawsuits have generated controversy concerning minimal scientific evidence put forward from ‘silicone’ doctors. Suggestions have been made that attorneys and doctors were influenced by financial compensation and were focused on the interests of patients, rather than testifying honestly backed by science.


Legal action concerning the toxic nature of asbestos has been ongoing since the 1980s, ever since there has been increased scientific discovery about the serious risk to health that can occur if exposed to asbestos. The litigation is one of the earliest mass torts. Mass tort lawsuits about the toxicity of asbestos are ongoing, with Johnson and Johnson paying billions of dollars of settlements due to asbestos presence in their talcum powder. Like the silicone breast implant lawsuits though, calls for fraud investigations into lawyers and doctors were made following a dramatic influx of claims about asbestos.


A famous mass tort lawsuit in recent years revolved around Zofran, an anti-nausea drug approved for women to use during chemotherapy. However, the manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline illegally promoted it as a treatment for morning sickness in pregnancy, leading to thousands of children born with birth defects. Lawsuits started to be filed in 2014, following a $3 billion dollar settlement that the pharmaceutical company made with the Justice Department following its fraudulent marketing around Zofran and several other drugs.

These examples of mass tort cases are a few of many, and more are constantly being put forward. Lawsuits such as these provide an insight into how to approach mass tort cases in future, and how to develop the process of taking multidistrict litigation.