In this issue of the Legal Look, we review a wave of new priest abuse lawsuits set to enter New York courts, the third Roundup trial in California on the heels of a multimillion dollar verdict, and a bid to consolidate 3M earplug lawsuits into multidistrict litigation.
New York Catholic Church Lawsuits on the Rise
After the recent passage of the New York Child Victims Act (CVA), it appears that New York courts are going to begin seeing a brand new wave of lawsuits against the Catholic Church based on allegations of sexual abuse by priests. In addition to extending the statute of limitations deadline by which victims can file a civil lawsuit to the age of 55, the law provided for a one-year “look back” window, giving any victims of sexual abuse time to submit a legal claim.
According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Catholic diocese in New York have paid a combined $228 million to resolve more than 1,260 sexual abuse cases under a reconciliation program. However, this number could be dwarfed by the hundreds – possibly thousands – of new cases that are likely to be filed under the new law, given the lists of priests accused of abuse that have been released by several diocese in New York over the last few years. At least one recent claimant who filed in Buffalo last month is seeking $300 million alone. As lawsuits are filed and start generating verdicts and settlements, the total amount that the Catholic Church has to pay could extend into the billions.
Some other states are looking to increase their statutes of limitations for child victims of sexual abuse, as well. Similar legislation is under consideration (at varying stages) in Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. California, which already offered one look-back window in 2003, has a bill that would provide a second window for victims who were unable to file during the first look-back.
3rd Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit Underway
A third Roundup cancer lawsuit has gone to trial in California, just one day after a federal jury awarded $80 million to a man who used Roundup on his property for more than 20 years before receiving a cancer diagnosis. Similar to the two previous trials, this one focuses on a couple who both developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which subsequently spread to other parts of the body. The fact that both the husband and wife developed similar cancers after using Roundup for many years could be a huge hurdle for Monsanto, who has consistently claimed that their weedkiller product has no relationship to cancer. Shares of Bayer (Monsanto’s parent company) reportedly declined by 1.3% after news of Thursday’s $80 million verdict broke.
Alva and Alberta Pilliod, farmers who are both now in their 70s, used Roundup for decades on multiple properties that they owned. According to their lawsuit, which was filed in a California state court like Dewayne Johnson’s claim, the Pilliods believed Roundup was safe based on Monsanto’s marketing of the product. However, both of them have developed cancer now, and they argue that exposure to Roundup contributed to their diagnoses.
The Pilliods’ trial was originally supposed to take place much later, but the couple petitioned for the trial date to be moved up under a California law that allows individuals over the age of 70 who have significant health problems to receive an expedited trial. The trial is now underway, though appeals and other motions could prevent them from seeing receiving compensation for years, even if they win – possibly not until after they have both passed away.
JPML Considers 3M Earplug Lawsuit Consolidation
3M Company faces a mounting number of faulty earplug lawsuits over their Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEV2). The rising number of legal claims over the ballistic hearing protection devices follows national coverage of a related whistleblower lawsuit.
In late 2018, 3M agreed to settle the whistleblower suit, which alleged they made false claims about their earplugs in order to secure a government contract. The settlement agreement is not an admission or determination of liability, but it did raise awareness about the faulty earplugs. Court filings revealed CAEV2 were standard issue for active duty military personnel in multiple branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. As such, their alleged faulty design could have impacted hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of military service men and women over the years.
Veterans and military personnel have filed combat earplug lawsuits nationwide after suffering hearing damage they attribute to their use of the CAEV2. They hope to qualify for legal damages that may help offset the costs of medical and psychological treatment and hearing aids.
A handful of these lawsuits have been covered in the news, but 3M has publicly acknowledged more than 200 pending lawsuits as of March 2019. Plaintiffs’ lawyers filed a motion in January to have the cases consolidated by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). Federal judges heard oral arguments for the motion yesterday, and their decision to grant (or not) an MDL for these lawsuits could come at any moment.
Plaintiffs will likely benefit if the JPML grants the motion, as it will expedite many of the processes common to each of the hundreds of lawsuits. If the MDL is created, subsequent lawsuits will also reap those benefits, as they will be added to the MDL.Have you suffered hearing loss or damage after using CAEV2 earplugs?