There have been numerous high-profile, class-action lawsuits over the years, many of them involving securities fraud. However, other famous class-action lawsuits relate to pharmaceutical drugs, credit card abuses, and dangerous or unhealthy products. Here are the Top 10 class-action lawsuits either won, settled or pending and in terms of damages sought, as compiled by LawInfo.com
Master Tobacco Settlement
In this famous lawsuit, each individual state of the United States, represented by that state’s Attorney-General, filed suit against each of the Top 6 tobacco companies in state court. To settle the individual suits, tobacco companies Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, Lorillard Tobacco Company, Philip Morris Incorporated, R J Reynolds Tobacco Company, Commonwealth Tobacco, and Liggett & Myers entered into a joint settlement in 1998. The settlement was for $206 billion over 25 years.
The individual lawsuits were filed under the different states’ consumer protection and anti-trust laws for the recovery of smoking-related healthcare costs covered by each state under their Medicare/Medicaid programmes and to enforce laws designed to reduce smoking by those less than 18 years of age. The master settlement agreement released the tobacco companies from further litigation in state courts.
Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores
In this litigation, a female employee has sued Wal-Mart Stores for sexual discrimination, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that after several years of excellent work evaluations, she was denied a promotion. The case was converted to class-action status to represent every female employee from 1998 onwards. The suit, filed in 2000, seeking $11 billion is pending.
Investors in Enron corporate stock filed lawsuits under both federal and state securities laws against Enron Corporation, individual Enron officers and directors, Enron’s accountant Arthur Anderson, individual Arthur Anderson partners and employees, and Enron’s former law firm Vinson & Elkins.
The lawsuit’s primary contention was that Enron engaged in fraud by concealing from investors losses by Enron-controlled special-purpose entities (the Raptors). Because Enron’s primary corporate losses were attributed to these entities, those losses were not disclosed in annual reports, or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings.
A total of $7.2 billion in settlements reached by Enron to compensate shareholders whose stock became worthless during the company collapse is the largest payout to date in a shareholder securities class action. The case was settled in 2006 for an amount of $7.2 billion.
(Read the full article in the January issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2016)