Product Liability Settlement
Any product sold on the market may be subject to a product liability lawsuit if it has a design, manufacturing, or marketing defect.
When a product fails to work as expected and harms consumers, product manufacturers, designers, and distributors can be held accountable for their negligence.
Defective products may include drugs with dangerous side effects, cars that increase the likelihood of accidents, or electronics that catch fire. Virtually any product sold on the market may be subject to a product liability lawsuit if it has a design, manufacturing, or marketing defect.
If you suffered a physical or financial injury caused by a product defect, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer.
Product liability settlements have reached upwards of a billion dollars for the most serious product defects. Here are some of the most notable settlements and verdicts in recent years.
Pella Corp. Windows (2018) — $26 Million
A class action lawsuit filed against Pella Corp. alleged their Pella ProLine aluminum-clad wood casement, awning, and transom windows leaked and caused wood rot.
Pella Corp. agreed to pay $26 million to settle the class action. Consumers who purchased Pella ProLine aluminum-clad wood casement, awning, or transom windows between January 1, 1991 and December 31, 2009 may be eligible for compensation.
If consumers suffered damage within 15 years from the original window purchase, they are eligible for compensation equivalent to the costs of their new window, as well as installation, finish, and repair costs (even if they have yet to replace their windows or to make repairs). If it occurred more than 15 years out, consumers can receive compensation equal to 25 percent of that amount.
Takata Airbags (2017) — $1 Billion
In January 2017, Takata pled guilty to criminal charges brought against them by the U.S. Department of Justice over their defective airbags.
The airbags—which contained the volatile chemical ammonium nitrate—could explode, injuring passengers with flying metal shards. Takata airbags caused at least 20 deaths and more than 180 injuries. The company allegedly knew of the defect as early as 2004, but they didn’t issue an airbag recall until 2015.
The billion-dollar settlement included $125 million to compensate victims.
Volkswagen Emissions (2016) — $15 Billion
On October 25, 2016, a federal court approved the largest civil settlement in automaker history. VW proposed a $14.7 billion settlement which would resolve claims brought by VW owners affected by the emissions scandal.
The automaker had marketed and sold their diesel engines as green, low-emission vehicles. But, VW engineered their Turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines so that they only activated emissions controls during testing in order to meet U.S. regulations. On the roads, the vehicles released 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide into the air.
In the settlement agreement, $10 billion was set aside to buy back or repair affected vehicles. It covers owners of VW and Audi cars with 2.0-liter engines sold in the U.S. The company also agreed to pay $5 billion in environmental remediation.
Shortly after the settlement was approved, VW pled guilty to violating the Clean Air Act. Six executives were charged and the company agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties.
Unilever (2016) — $10 Million
Consumers claimed the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit melted their hair and caused it to fall out.
In 2012, consumers filed a class action lawsuit against Unilever for their Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit. They claimed the product melted their hair and caused it to fall out.
The hair product was only on the market for five months until it was recalled in May 2012.
Unilever agreed to pay $10 to anyone who purchased the product, regardless of whether or not they suffered an injury. In addition, they agreed to establish a personal injury fund for class members who suffered scalp injuries caused by the product. Morgan & Morgan represented class members.
BMW Mini Cooper (2015) — $30 million
In November 2015, BMW offered to pay up for a defect affecting their Mini Cooper S Hardtops, Clubmans, and Convertibles. An issue with the timing chain tensioners caused the engines’ pistons and valves to collide, eventually damaging engines badly enough so that they seized and caused vehicles to lose power unexpectedly.
The lawsuit alleged that the company had known of the defect since 2008 but failed to issue a recall or reimburse car owners who had to repair or replace timing chain tensioners.
BMW agreed to pay $30 million to Mini Cooper owners affected by the defect. The settlement covered the costs of replacing timing chain tensioners and timing chains, and repairing damage to engines caused by faulty timing chain tensioners. It also compensated owners who sold their vehicles at a loss due to faulty timing chain tensioners.
Takeda Pharmaceuticals (2015) — $2.4 Billion
Patients who took diabetes drug Actos (pioglitazone) for more than a year were 40% more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer.
A five-year FDA review found that patients who took diabetes drug Actos (pioglitazone) for more than a year were 40% more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer. In 2011, the FDA issued a safety announcement that warned of Actos’ cancer risk.
More than 9,000 product liability lawsuits alleged that Takeda withheld information about the risk and failed to warn patients and doctors of the dangerous side effect. The company settled claims for $2.4 billion.
General Motors Faulty Ignition Switches (2015) — $575 Million
General Motors recalled 2.6 million cars in 2014 due to faulty ignition switches. The ignition switch could switch into the off position on its own, causing power to the engine, steering, anti-lock braking, and airbags to shut off. The glitch was linked to 400 injuries and deaths.
In 2015, the company agreed to resolve 1,380 lawsuits—more than half of the lawsuits in an MDL in New York federal court—with a $575 million settlement.
Stryker Orthopaedics (2014) — $1.43 Billion
Stryker Orthopaedics agreed to pay $1.43 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits filed against them for their Rejuvenate and ABG II hip stems.
These metal-on-metal hip replacements were recalled in 2012 because they could corrode in patients’ bodies. The corrosion caused illnesses and pain and swelling of the surrounding tissue in some patients, resulting in a high likelihood of revision surgery.
Under the settlement, injured patients could receive as much as $600,000 each.
RJ Reynolds (2010) — $20 Million
In 2010, a Florida court found RJ Reynolds 51% responsible for the death of Layntie Townsend’s late husband, Frank. Mr. Townsend died from lung cancer after smoking RJ Reynolds cigarettes for years. The tobacco company was accused of covering up the dangerous side effects from smoking.
A jury initially awarded $91 million to Mrs. Townsend. This was later trimmed to $20 million in punitive damages.
Morgan & Morgan attorneys Greg Prysock, Katerine Massa, and Keith Mitnik represented Mrs. Townsend.
Merck's Vioxx (2007) — $4.85 billion
Patients who took Vioxx for more than 18 months doubled their risk of heart attack and stroke.
Merck pulled its popular painkiller Vioxx from the market after a 2004 study linked it to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But it was too late for many patients who had been taking the dangerous drug since its approval in 1999.
Patients who took Vioxx for more than 18 months doubled their risk of heart attack and stroke. But lawsuits alleged that Merck knew of this risk and concealed it, even going so far as to exclude incidents from their clinical trial reports.
In 2007, the company agreed to establish a fund worth $4.85 billion to settle claims brought by 47,000 plaintiffs. Individuals who had taken Vioxx within 14 days of suffering a heart attack or stroke could petition for compensation.
Owens Corning, Asbestos (2000) — $7 Billion
Owens Corning was the leading fiberglass insulation manufacturer during the 20th century. The company used asbestos to make their insulation though, putting workers who handled the material at risk of developing mesothelioma, a fatal lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
In 1998, Owens Corning settled asbestos litigation against them by agreeing to establish a $7 billion compensation fund. Shortly after, the company filed for bankruptcy.
American Home Products Corp. (1999) — $4.8 billion
American Home Products Corporation agreed to a record-breaking $4.8 billion product liability settlement for their fen-phen diet drug combination. Mayo Clinic researchers found the drug was linked to potentially fatal heart-valve damage.
The nearly $5 billion sum settled 6,500 lawsuits as well as future claims brought against the company. Injured patients could receive up to $1.5 million, depending on the severity of their injury and how long they took the diet drug. The settlement also covered medical monitoring for individuals who took the diet drug combination but still appeared healthy.
Dow Corning Silicone Breast Implants (1998) — $3.2 Billion
One of the largest product liability settlements involved silicone breast implants. In 1992, the FDA prohibited the manufacture of silicone breast implants, stating that manufacturers never adequately proved that they were safe.
Dow Corning was one of the largest manufacturers of silicone breast implants. 170,000 women brought claims against the company, alleging the implants ruptured inside of them. The company agreed to settle claims for $3.2 billion. The amount would award each woman $12,000 to $60,000 depending on their injuries, $5,000 to women asking for surgery to remove implants, and $25,000 to women who suffered from ruptured implants.