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| Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

2016 was a momentous year in the realm of civil litigation. Johnson & Johnson was held liable for a myriad of negligent actions resulting in over $1 billion in jury verdicts against the behemoth corporation. Another large company, Volkswagen, was assessed a $14 billion fine for scamming consumers in the emissions testing results of its vehicles. And, the President-elect of the United States agreed to settle cases alleging he perpetrated a massive fraud by creating what accusers called a “fake” university that bilked thousands of dollars out of his eager to learn, but unwitting students. The settlement amount was a big number.  

This is Legal Examiner’s annual compilation of the 10 most important civil cases of 2016, created by author-attorney Richard N. (Rick) Shapiro.

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Here is part 2 (i.e. the top 5 civil justice stories).

  1. Jury Awards $18 Million in Cosmetic Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Why It’s Big

This 18-million-dollar jury verdict is the largest awarded in a cosmetic talc-related asbestos-mesothelioma lawsuit, as of the date of this posting. The jury actually awarded 3 million dollars more than the attorneys for the plaintiff asked for.

What Did We Learn?

The cancer risks associated with talc powder products goes far beyond ovarian cancer, which made headlines in 2016. A major spotlight was placed on the shocking risks associated with talc powder use, but the news revolved largely around women using talc powder (e.g., J & J baby powder, shower-to-shower product) for decades and developing cancer in the ovaries. This asbestos and talc verdict shows that (1) men are just as susceptible to developing cancers with talc powder use and (2) you may be at risk of developing mesothelioma by using talcum powder products. This is because talc and asbestos are quite similar in their chemical structures. Our firm has represented hundreds of railroad workers and some who developed mesothelioma after being exposed to toxic asbestos. For decades some lawyers have contended that talc causes cancers, especially because its chemical composition is similar to asbestos, and with this Los Angeles verdict, a jury concluded that multiple talc products contributed to cause mesothelioma in a former aide to former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley.

Dig Deeper

Cancerous Talc Powder Spurs $18M Jury Verdict (Courthouse News Service)

  1. Johnson & Johnson (J & J) Found Liable in Risperdal Lawsuit; Jury Awards $70 million

Why It’s Big

risperdalThis 70 million dollar jury verdict is about 30 times larger than the previously-largest jury verdict for a Risperdal lawsuit (i.e. 2.5 million dollar verdict to an Alabama man). Risperdal is a prescription antipsychotic medication with the awful potential side effect of causing men to develop female breasts. This recent jury verdict comes off the heels of J & J agreeing to pay $2.2 billion to resolve allegations that the drug maker illegally marketed Risperdal to children and the elderly.

What Did We Learn?

Drug manufacturers care more about profits, and less about people that may suffer less well known side effects. We know this because attorneys for the plaintiff in the above case presented a persuasive argument to a jury that J & J officials intentionally avoided informing pediatricians and psychiatrists the results of a study that showed Risperdal could cause abnormal breast development in boys. Why? Because J & J wanted those pediatricians and psychiatrists to continue writing thousands of prescriptions to patients who had no idea of these risks.

Dig Deeper

J&J Hit With $70 Million Risperdal Verdict Over Male Breasts (Bloomberg)

  1. The U.S. Department of Justice Recovers Billions from Large Companies that Have Defrauded the Federal Government

Why It’s Big

During President Obama’s tenure, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has collected over $31 billion from companies that defrauded the federal government. That amount is more than the DOJ has recovered from companies than the past three administrations combined.

What Did We Learn?

President Obama was often criticized as being, if not friendly, at least too cozy with corporate interests and Wall Street. Well, the DOJ billions collected shows that his administration actually did a lot to tackle fraud and abuse of the government by corporations. Will the general public give him credit? Probably not.

Dig Deeper

Justice Department Collects Record Billions From Companies That Defrauded the Government (Fortune)

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Slaps Wells Fargo with $100 Million Fine for Defrauding Customers

WFWhy It’s Big

It’s not every day we learn that a large bank was flagrantly defrauding customers by secretly opening bank accounts to gin up their earnings. Wells Fargo employees boosted their sales figures by covertly opening accounts and funding them by transferring funds from consumers’ authorized accounts without their knowledge or consent, often racking up administrative fees or other charges. That sounds like fraud doesn’t it?  

What Did We Learn?

Check your bank account(s) regularly. Wells Fargo is not a fly-by-night business. It has been around for over 100 years and is one of the largest banking institutions in the world. If Wells Fargo allowed this type of egregious behavior, what are other big banks up to?

Dig Deeper

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Fines Wells Fargo $100 Million for Widespread Illegal Practice of Secretly Opening Unauthorized Accounts (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

  1. Volkswagen Agree to $14.7 Billion Settlement in Emissions Scandal Lawsuit

Why It’s Big

This is the largest civil settlement worldwide ever reached with an automaker accused of misconduct. The lawsuit brought against Volkswagen involved the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission, the State of California and thousands of VW owners who filed a class action suit against the deceptive auto manufacturer.

What Did We Learn?

Volkswagen admitted it installed secret software in its diesel vehicles to cheat exhaust emissions tests and make the cars appear cleaner in testing than they really were. In reality, the vehicles emitted up to forty times the legally allowable pollution levels.  Car makers spend millions on T.V. building a reputable brand, but purposefully designing software to scam emissions testing rightfully makes a consumer wary of ever trusting VW any time soon.

Dig Deeper

U.S. Judge Approves $14.7 Billion Settlement in VW Diesel Scandal (Fortune)

Read the top-five civil justice stories of 2016 here


About the Author 

Virginia Beach, VA Attorney Rick Shapiro frequently blogs at Virginia Beach Legal Examiner and he wrote the  international award winning fiction suspense thriller Taming The Telomeres. In addition to being a published, award-winning author, he is a prolific American inventor/product designer.

Headline Image Source (CC BY 2.0) Flickr/jeepersmedia. Image cropped for sizing.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for David

    Bravo! i always look forward to your end of the year wrap up! Enjoy the Holidays and HNY!

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