Study Offers Insight into True Impact on State Court Trials in 2020
New data released by the Court Statistics Project shows that state court trials drastically decreased in 2020. Civil jury trials were hit the hardest as states saw activity decrease by 74% from 2019 to 2020. Criminal jury trials followed closely behind, with a decrease of 60% from 2019 to 2020. Bench trials fared better with civil bench trials seeing a 42% decrease and criminal bench trials seeing a 35% decrease from 2019 to 2020.
In the past week, 3M has declared two victories in the Earplug Litigation. The first came on Wednesday, December 15, 2021 when a Pensacola jury decided that the defendant’s earplugs were not defectively designed or unreasonably dangerous. The plaintiff was former U.S. Army soldier Carlos Montero, who served in the military for 23 years from 1995-2018 and alleged hearing loss and bilateral tinnitus.
On December 13, 2021, parties announced a $380m settlement had been reached in the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse litigation. The settlement was reached in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
The plaintiffs’ claims stem from the allegations of abuse against team doctor Larry Nassar. Hundreds of gymnasts filed lawsuits against USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee citing negligence that allowed the abuse to go on for years.
On December 10, 2021, a federal jury awarded $22.5 million to U.S. Army soldier Theodore Finley holding 3M liable for hearing loss from defective earplugs used in combat. The former soldier was awarded $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages. This is now the largest jury verdict to date. Previous jury verdicts were $13 million, $8.2 million, $7.1 million and $1.7 million.
On November 16, 2021, claims were filed in the United States District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle against Zillow Group Inc. (“Zillow”) and three of its executives: Richard Barton, CEO, Allen Parker, CFO and Jeremy Wacksman, COO (collectively, “Defendants”). The plaintiff claims Defendants made misleading statements about the program, Zillow Offers.
On Monday, November 15, 2021, a Florida jury awarded more than $13 million to Army Sergeant Guillermo Camarillorazo, holding 3M liable for hearing loss resulting from the use of defective earplugs in combat. The jury awarded Sgt. Guillermo $816,395 in compensatory damages and $12,245 in punitive damages. This is the largest jury verdict to date. Previous jury verdicts were in the amounts of $8.2 million, $7.1 million and $1.7 million.
On November 10, 2021, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Craig Whitley of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of North Carolina, issued an order transferring claims against Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) related to its talc-based products to a federal court in New Jersey where the multidistrict litigation, In re: Johnson and Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability, is currently pending.
On October 29, 2021, parties in the In Re: Johnson & Johnson Aerosol Sunscreen Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation told the judge they had reached a tentative settlement agreement. Last month, the cases were consolidated into a Multidistrict Litigation (“MDL”) in front of U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal in the Southern District of Florida.
On October 25, 2021, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Craig Whitley of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of North Carolina, issued an order instructing a Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) subsidiary to show cause why the case “should not be transferred to another judicial district where venue is proper.”
On October 25, 2021, parties in the Zantac MDL participated in a court conference via Zoom to present to Judge Robin L. Rosenberg of the Southern District of Florida a proposed joint plan for selection of bellwether cases in the Zantac litigation. Plaintiffs in the litigations all similarly allege that they developed cancer after taking the heartburn drug.
On October 19, 2021, 3M announced a settlement of nearly $99 million with plaintiffs alleging contamination of the Tennessee River. The claims were filed in federal court in the Northern District of Alabama and state court in the Circuit Court of Morgan County, Alabama.
On Friday, October 8th, 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) consolidated suits related to Johnson & Johnson Sunscreen Products, sending claims to U.S. District Judge Anuraag Singhal in the Southern District of Florida. The lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) and Costco Wholesale Corporation by a group of plaintiffs alleging J&J’s Aveeno and Neutrogena-branded sunscreen products were contaminated with benzene, a carcinogen.
On Friday, October 8th, 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) consolidated suits related to Philips Sleep Apnea Devices. The claims were sent to U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti in the Western District of Pennsylvania. The lawsuits were filed against Koninklijke Philips NV (“Philips”) by a group of plaintiffs alleging the defendant manufactured defective sleep apnea breathing machines.
On September 28, 2021, a motion for class certification was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington by the plaintiffs in a proposed class suit against video gaming company, Valve Corp. (“Valve”), alleging that the defendant took advantage of minor children by failing to disclose that its virtual “loot boxes” simulate online gambling.
On September 27, 2021, class claims were filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against the Wurzak Hotel Group Mark LLC, which operates the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue and the Sheraton Valley Forge properties, alleging that the defendant violated the contract entered into with the plaintiffs by refusing to refund any of the fees or deposits paid to the hotel in anticipation of the plaintiffs’ fall 2020 wedding reception, which was cancelled due to state COVID-19 restrictions.