A well-known recent example of a mass tort lawsuit was a major case against Johnson & Johnson. The company marketed baby powder that included talcum powder, a cancer-causing ingredient. Earlier this year, the Missouri Court of Appeals ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a $2.1 billion settlement, split among 22 women who contracted ovarian cancer from using the powder.
Upon first glance, this case sounds like a class action talcum powder lawsuit but it is actually a mass tort one.
Mass torts have been popular in legal action against talcum powder because victims have experienced differing levels of extreme harm or even death, and as such they or their families might be awarded millions of dollars depending on their specific situation.
If the 22 Johnson & Johnson victims had instead been a part of a class action lawsuit, they probably would have been awarded smaller settlements as compensation would have been split among many more victims.
In some cases, Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder has also led to mesothelioma, which is a type of asbestos related cancer. Like the Missouri Court of Appeals case, most mesothelioma cases are not filed as class action lawsuits.
Instead they are filed as mass torts or individual cases so that larger settlements are possible. In January of this year, Johnson & Johnson paid $2 million to an individual victim who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after using the company’s baby powder.
A recent example of a class action lawsuit is Apple’s recent “batterygate” scandal. In November 2020, the company was ordered to pay $113 million to settle an investigation that proved that they had purposely slowed down older iPhones to extend battery life. The millions of dollars will be split among plaintiffs in 34 different states.