Class-action lawsuits allow negligence victims who suffered similar injuries due to the same party’s actions to team up and take legal action together. These cases often help victims to hold companies accountable when they could not do so on their own.
In some instances, class members are identified only after the settlement or court award is granted. Some may also reach their own settlements during litigation of the case. To protect class members, the judge must approve all settlements and distribution plans in a class action, even if the company and the victims agree to settle.
The largest class-action payouts in the U.S.
Class-action lawsuits frequently deal with millions of dollars in compensation, with some reaching even $1 billion or more. Three of the largest mass torts in history as of May 2021 include:
The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
According to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) made history when the nation’s four biggest tobacco companies (and later 45 more) agreed to pay out more than $206 billion over the following 25 years. The defendants in the initial case included:
- Philip Morris Inc.
- J. Reynolds Tobacco
- Brown & Williamson
This money covers annual payments to 52 U.S. states and territories, including Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas, under separate settlements. These funds help pay for smoking-related medical care under federal and state programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Settlement
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an offshore oil rig explosion on April 20, 2010, began the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. All told, this spill lasted 87 days and left almost 134 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
The environmental impact affected Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Fisheries, tourism companies, oyster and shrimp fishermen, and many other groups also suffered significant losses.
Almost six years later, on April 4, 2016, a federal judge in New Orleans approved a $20.8 billion settlement from BP. This is the biggest environmental damage award to date in the United States.
Volkswagen Clean Air Act Settlement
According to Car and Driver, Volkswagen intentionally programmed some of its diesel engines to outsmart emissions testing, making it possible for them to violate the Clean Air Act without the knowledge of drivers, watchdog groups, or the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In 2016, the federal judge overseeing the class action approved a settlement of $14.7 billion for those with affected Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) engines. This provides more than 475,000 Volkswagen and Audi vehicle owners with benefits that include:
- Buybacks at previous market values
- Payments for previous owners
- Additional compensation
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The largest number of people in a class
Some class-action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation (MDL) cases can recover compensation for millions of victims who suffered harm, whether that was physical injury, emotional distress, or financial losses.
Two recent cases with well more than a million victims include the following:
Takata Airbag Liability Litigation
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seven car manufacturers combined had to recall about 67 million Takata airbags because of a defective design that would cause them to explode when deployed in an accident. This caused several injuries and deaths.
The affected car manufacturers included:
Known as Re: Takata Airbag Products Liability Litigation, the presiding judge approved settlements with each automaker between June and September 2017. Tens of millions of vehicle owners likely qualified for benefits as a result of these settlements.
Bank of America/Merrill Lynch & Co. Settlement
According to a Reuters report, a 2013 settlement in a case based on Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co. benefited several million shareholders. This $2.4 billion settlement came after Bank of America investors claimed Merrill Lynch’s true financial situation was not disclosed before they approved the acquisition.
What should you do if you think you may have a class-action lawsuit?
If you believe you may have a mass tort claim or have questions about whether others have suffered similar injuries because of a company’s negligence, our team is here for you.
We can review the facts in your case during a complimentary consultation and discuss your legal options with you. There are no upfront costs for joining a class action or serving as the class representative if your case is later class certified.
Speak with the Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers attorneys for free today
Reach out to Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers to learn more about class actions and other types of mass torts. Our firm serves clients all throughout Louisiana, including those in New Orleans, Marksville, Lafayette, and Alexandria. We will assess your case for free and discuss whether you may have a class action claim.
Call today to learn more.