3 of the Most Influential Class Action Lawsuits

September 20, 2016 @ 4:13 pm

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Class action lawsuits are unique legal avenues that allow consumers to take legal action against larger companies, corporations or organizations. In this kind of lawsuit, plaintiffs leverage their position by consolidating their efforts. This allows regular people to have the resources necessary to take on defendants who would otherwise be too powerful to sue.

In order to file a class action lawsuit in Louisiana, a group of plaintiffs must be certified as a “class” by a judge. The requirements of forming a class in Louisiana include “numerosity” (sufficient number of plaintiffs), “commonality and typicality” (plaintiffs of the proposed class have the same primary claims), and “adequacy and objectivity,” meaning that the proposed class representatives will adequately and objectively represent the interests of the class. Even if a proposed class meets the above requirements, state laws may still prohibit the certification of a class under certain causes of action.

While not all class action lawsuits are successful, here are three class action lawsuits that produced some of the largest settlements in American history.

1.  Tobacco Master Settlement

Today, everyone knows that smoking can cause cancer. While modern consumers may take this fact for granted, smoking’s danger was not always certain. This is why the Master Tobacco Settlement is so important. In this unique lawsuit, it was the states that sought compensation from the major tobacco companies like Philip Morris Incorporated. The lawsuit pursued legal reimbursement under consumer protection laws, and this high profile case was argued by each state’s Attorney General. The lawsuit was settled in 1998 for a staggering $206 billion. The amount was paid out over the next 25 years, and the funds were used to cover smoking-related costs for Medicare and Medicaid programs in addition to educational anti-smoking efforts.

2.  The Enron Scandal

Enron’s financial corruption shocked the nation. When the depth of its accounting fraud became known, the shock became anger. It is no surprise, then, that Enron was hit with one of the largest class action lawsuits in history. The lawsuit targeted the company as a whole in addition to specific directors. Arthur Andersen, Enron’s accounting firm, and Vinson & Elkins, Enron’s law firm, were also named in the suit. The case ultimately settled for $7.2 billion. The money went to company shareholders, who were originally left with nothing when the scandal was first exposed and the company collapsed.

3.  WorldCom

Enron may be the most famous corporate scandal from the early 2000s, but it certainly was not the only one. There was a time when WorldCom was a leading telecommunications company. Unfortunately, much of the company’s success was based on illegal accounting manipulation. The major players in the company used misleading accounting methods to inflate the company’s worth until internal auditing finally figured out the discrepancy. The lawsuit against WorldCom was settled in 2005 for $6.2 billion. This case was also partially responsible, along with the Enron scandal, for spurring the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was the government’s largest bill regulating business practices since the 1930s.

Multi-District Litigation

Often times, the damages to the individual plaintiffs in a proposed class are so different that a class action lawsuit is not an ideal vehicle. In certain circumstances, federal courts will allow a “multi-district litigation”, or “MDL,” in which multiple lawsuits are filed into the same court to allow for a consolidated discovery effort. Some current pending MDLs are those involving the diabetes drug “Actos,” the BP litigation, and MDLs against various manufacturers of pelvic mesh. The attorneys at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett, and Haik are involved in all of these MDLs and are appointed as liaison counsel on the plaintiff’s steering committee in the Actos litigation pending in the Western District of Louisiana.

Your Choice for a Personal Injury Lawyer

Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett, and Haik Law Firm has significant experience in both class actions and multi-district litigation. If you have a legal issue that you would like to have settled or resolved, you can get started by contacting the legal team at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett and Haik.