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Mass torts against 3M, J&J fueled spike in new federal lawsuits in 2023

Federal judiciary reports that federal lawsuits grew by 24% during the fiscal year 2023 as people claiming to have been injured by products such as 3M's Combat earplugs or Johnson & Johnson talcum powder grew.

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Federal judiciary reports that federal lawsuits grew by 24% during the fiscal year 2023 as people claiming to have been injured by products such as 3M’s Combat earplugs or Johnson & Johnson talcum powder grew.

The rise in civil cases filed during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 marked a change after two years of steady decline in new lawsuits filed at federal courts, a drop that the judiciary attributed to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.

The increase in new lawsuits was accompanied by a decline in other federal court activity, as new criminal cases fell 3% and regional appeals court filings dropped 4%.

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The judiciary reported that drug-related criminal cases fell 8% to 18,103 cases. They now make up 27% of all criminal proceedings.

The increase in civil cases led to 405,878 new cases being filed by the judiciary in 2023, an 18% increase.

In an annual report, the judiciary attributed a large part of the rise in civil cases to a 47% increase in diversity of citizenship or disputes between citizens from different states. Personal injury cases jumped 66% to 117,705.

Most of this increase was due to mass torts consolidated into multidistrict litigation. Civil lawsuits grew 10% in 2010, even if you exclude mass tort cases.

Florida’s Northern District reported that 47,650 personal injury cases were filed last year. This is a 38% increase, which can be attributed to a more significant number of lawsuits brought before a Florida judge by U.S. veterans and service members claiming they have suffered hearing loss after using 3M’s Combat earplugs.

3M agreed in late August to pay $6.01 billion to settle these lawsuits. Over 276,000 lawsuits were filed in the largest federal litigation multidistrict proceeding in U.S. court history.

Personal injury claims in New Jersey’s health care and pharmaceutical industry soared by 310%, mainly due to lawsuits alleging Johnson & Johnson talc-based baby powder products caused cancer.

There are currently 53,800 lawsuits pending against J&J. J&J tried to settle its talc liability in bankruptcy court for two years, but the courts dismissed both bankruptcy filings and allowed litigation to resume.

Illinois’ Northern District saw an increase of 1,421% in product liability lawsuits to 8,487. This was due to lawsuits alleging that chemical hair relaxers made by L’Oreal USA and Revlon caused cancer and other injuries.

All of the companies involved in these cases have denied any wrongdoing.

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