The US has a long history of class action lawsuits, which have helped to improve the lives of millions of Americans.
In the last two decades, however, the number and scope of class action lawsuits have exploded. While some are legitimate cases that help consumers and workers get their due, many more seem like little more than an attempt at a quick payday from deep-pocketed corporations.
As per a report in USA Today, the COVID-19 pandemic also spawned at least 1,000 workplace-related class action cases in 2021, as employees sued organizations over workplace safety, medical leave, etc.
Here are some of the most famous examples of class action lawsuits:
Apple’s iPhone Battery Throttling
The iPhone battery throttling class action lawsuit is one of US history’s most recent cases. The case was filed against Apple in April 2018 by a group of users who claimed that Apple deliberately slowed down the performance of older iPhones to encourage users to upgrade their phones.
At the time, Apple admitted that it had been reducing the clock speed on several iPhone 6, 7, and 8 models. But argued that this was done for good reason. To prevent unexpected shutdowns when phones were subjected to high demand from apps or other activity.
In January 2019, Apple agreed to pay $2 billion as part of a settlement deal with customers who were affected by its controversial battery-throttling practices.
The NFL concussion settlement is one of the most famous class action lawsuits in recent history. It was reached between former football players and the National Football League (NFL), with $1 billion going toward medical care for retired players who experience cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The settlement, which was approved by Judge Anita Brody in 2013, also included compensation for families of deceased players who died of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The suit was filed after a series of scientific studies revealed that repeated hits to the head could lead to brain injuries, including CTE. The plaintiffs argued that this information should have been disclosed when they signed their contracts with teams, leading them to suffer from permanent neuropsychological problems.
According to NPR (National Public Radio), the NFL is again under fire over concussions after quarterback Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins needed to be carted off the field in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sep 29th, 2022.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The Camp Lejeune water contamination case is a class action lawsuit that was filed in 2012 against the U.S. government and Marine Corps for exposing more than a million troops and their families to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
The contamination started in the 1950s and continued until 2008, when it was finally discovered that there were leaks in pipes that were contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other carcinogens.
The lawsuit alleges that people have suffered serious symptoms of Camp Lejeune water contamination, including cancers like leukemia and multiple myeloma that can be traced back to their service at the base between 1953 and 1987 (when it closed). Over 1 million people are estimated to be affected by this case so far. As many as 20% may have already died due to their exposure.
In 2013, another class action suit was filed on behalf of veterans who served at bases near or around Ground Zero. This suit also includes civilians who lived or worked near these sites during those periods too. In 2018, more than $2 billion was awarded from this settlement. And there’s still time left before all remaining claims are paid out.
Volkswagen Emissions Scandal
The Volkswagen emissions scandal is one of the most famous examples of a class action lawsuit. In it, Volkswagen was found to have been using “defeat devices” in their diesel engines that allowed them to pass emissions tests while polluting at much higher levels in real-world driving conditions.
The company hid these devices from regulators and consumers by making false statements, which eventually led to the resignation of VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, among others.
Volkswagen sold almost 11 million cars with these defeat devices installed. Recently, as per DW, the automobile manufacturer reached an out-of-court settlement of 193 million British pounds to compensate 91,000 drivers in the UK for this defect.
Wells Fargo Fake Accounts
Wells Fargo has been involved in several lawsuits, but none as high-profile as their recent class action lawsuit. In 2016, the bank was found guilty of creating millions of fake accounts to meet its sales targets.
The scandal cost the bank $185 million in settlements with regulators and led to a series of executive departures and firings that totaled over 5,300 employees.
Chipotle’s E.coli Outbreak
In 2015, Chipotle Mexican Grill faced a class action lawsuit after its E.coli outbreak that affected more than 500 people in 14 states. The incident was caused by contaminated produce and involved three restaurants in the Pacific Northwest, although it was traced back to one store in Seattle, Washington.
In total, Chipotle had to close more than 2,000 restaurants in the US and Canada for about two weeks during an investigation into the matter. The company ultimately agreed to settle out of court with customers who were sickened from eating at one of its restaurants during this period for $12 million.
In conclusion, class action lawsuits are an important part of the American justice system and help protect consumers from unfair business practices.
They also provide a means for victims to seek redress for their losses without having to go through the time-consuming and expensive process of filing individual suits against large corporations.