Nation - Personal injury litigation highlights

By Tony Ogden

The Daily Record Newswire

BOSTON, MA -- In addition to a wide array of drug litigation, 2010 brought verdicts and settlements involving a number of other products, including Toyota vehicles, asbestos and tobacco.

Here is a look at some of the highlights from the year just past:

Auto suits

Automobile manufacturers dealt with a number of suits over the course of 2010. Toyota paid a record $16.4 million fine for failing to properly notify federal authorities about sudden unintended acceleration problems that spawned a number of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits from consumers.

Several large verdicts went against Ford in 2010 including a $131 million verdict, a $7 million verdict and a $23.4 million verdict for rollover accidents, as well as a $19 million verdict over defective seatbelt design. Owners of Windstar minivans are also suing Ford in a class action, claiming the rear axles of their vehicles have a design defect that can cause them to fail while driving.

Nursing home litigation

In nursing home litigation, the biggest verdict of 2010 was $640 million, levied against Skilled Healthcare Group, a nursing home firm, after the jury decided that the firm had violated state staffing standards.

Other big verdicts include a $114 million verdict in an abuse case that resulted in an elderly woman's death, a $42 million verdict for the dehydration death of 92-year-old patient, and a $43.5 million verdict against the owner of a nursing home facility where a man died after receiving poor care and inadequate medical attention for injuries suffered in a fall.

First Taser suit

For the first time last year, Taser settled a product liability suit brought by a criminal suspect alleging injury or death caused by the device.

'Popcorn lung' disease

Juries found for the plaintiff in several "popcorn lung" cases last year. The cases -- one an $8 million verdict and the other a $30.4 million verdict -- involved workers in microwave popcorn factories who were exposed to the butter flavoring chemical diacetyl, causing irreversible lung damage.

Asbestos

Out of the many asbestos cases this year, the largest verdict -- $209 million -- was in a "second-hand" asbestos case in which the victim's exposure to the cancer-causing fiber dust came from her husband who worked as a pipe cutter.

Tobacco

Once again, the ongoing Engle litigation continued to see a large number of verdicts with everything from $4.3 million to $80 million and more. The Engle progeny cases, which involve individual trials to determine if a plaintiff was addicted to cigarettes and whether that addiction caused his or her injury.

Published: Wed, Jan 12, 2011