A weekly update on interesting numbers in product liability, class action and mass tort news from June 30–July 6. Published Fridays.
5 and 1/2 years
The age of a user tracking case against Facebook, dismissed for the second time on July 3rd. The $15 billion multidistrict litigation case claimed that Facebook tracked data on users when they visited sites outside Facebook that had Facebook “like” buttons. U.S. District Judge Edward Davila said the plaintiffs failed to establish that they had any reasonable expectation of privacy or suffered “realistic” harm from Facebook’s collection of the data. Davila further noted that users could have taken steps to conceal their browser histories, but chose not to.
The votes in the June 2017 Supreme Court decision Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County that limited people from participating in liability lawsuits filed outside the state where their injury occurred. Some lawyers predict that this decision could significantly limit the extent of nationwide product liability actions. Already medical device companies Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific Corp. are using this decision to argue that a Pennsylvania state judge should dismiss claims in a pelvic mesh lawsuit brought by non-Pennsylvanians. Mesh products continue to be the subjects of lawsuits accusing manufacturers of not sufficiently addressing side effects like prolapse, bleeding, infection and chronic pain.
The length of a California judge’s tentative ruling that indicated she was likely to partially deny summary judgment for Imerys in a trial claiming that use of talcum powder causes ovarian cancer. In a continuing trial that we mentioned last week, Eva Echeverria claims that Imerys and Johnson & Johnson failed to disclose the risk of ovarian cancer associated with use of their talc products. Imerys argued that because they only supplied the talc, they should not be held liable in the cancer cases. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson’s ruling indicated she thought it was possible that Imerys Talc America, Inc. knew of the cancer risk. In earlier talc cases, Imerys and Johnson & Johnson have together been ordered to pay multiple multi-million dollar verdicts.
The number of inferior vena cava (IVC) filter recipients in a study in the Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis that concludes that IVC filters may be overused. IVC filters are recommended for patients that cannot receive anticoagulant treatments, but this study found that in a particular managed care population, anticoagulant use was actually higher among patients with IVC filters installed. Recently, many patients have sued medical device companies that make IVC filters, alleging that the filters can crack and move in the body and sometimes cause the blood clots the filters are supposed to prevent.
The number of miles downstream from a Chemours plant that GenX, a chemical used in the production of teflon, was found. The presence of this chemical in the waters around West Virginia and North Carolina is a cause for concern for many living in the area, given the history of Chemours, a DuPont spin-off company. DuPont and Chemours had previously settled lawsuits in the same region concerning their dumping of C8, a chemical associated with increased rates of cancer and ulcerative colitis. Chemours ceased the use of C8 in teflon production after the lawsuits and switched over to GenX and other newer compounds thought to be less harmful. This week, preliminary studies found that cancer rates in the GenX dumping areas are generally not higher than statewide rates, but these data are not conclusive on whether GenX contributes to causing cancer.
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