The Center for Truth in Science has published an excellent report on mass crimes and how unscrupulous lawyers are using them to blackmail large settlements despite their claims not being scientifically based. While there may be legitimate mass crimes, there are too many cases based on junk science, an observation that I recently highlighted elsewhere.
The report states, “A mass killing is a type of civil lawsuit made up of numerous individual plaintiffs alleging injury caused by a defective and dangerous product or a specific incident.” This is not the same as class actions. Mass compensation payments compensate each claimant differently based on the damage suffered, while a class action lawsuit divides the award amount equally.
I’ve written about the junk science that underlies a number of such cases, including the recent cases against Bayer Agrosciences subsidiary Monsanto related to glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer known as Roundup, and others.
As consumers, we might think that criminal cases start when an injured party contacts an attorney and requests compensation for the legitimate harm a consumer product has caused. While some criminal offenses can arise this way, many class and class actions are developed as part of a concerted effort by a legion of law firms and marketers seeking personal financial gain. This process involves searching for possible allegations that can make them stand, be they true or false.
The Centre’s report notes that every case begins with a “trigger”; B. an event or a single government – or a United Nations study as in the case of glyphosate – making the headlines. In some cases, triggers can indicate legitimate issues that may require legal action. Too often, however, triggers trigger leading litigation attorneys to engage in junk science or media hype to move a case forward.
Litigation attorneys are always on the lookout for new triggers and plaintiffs to advance their plans. The report suggests that twice a year, hundreds of litigators gather at the Mass Torts Made Perfect conferences in Las Vegas to network and discuss future opportunities with a host of lead generators.
These so-called “lead generators” form an entire branch of well-paid marketing and advertising firms that look for potential plaintiffs and then sell them to law firms. Litigation attorneys pay between $ 500 and $ 10,000 per lead, according to the Center for Truth in Science report. These ad campaigns can cost up to $ 100,000 per month, with some of the larger campaigns often costing as much as $ 1.25 million or more. This is big business.
You’ve probably seen the commercials asking viewers if they or a family member used a certain product and ended up developing cancer or some other health problem. It doesn’t matter whether the two factors are related. The trial attorneys hope to hear from enough people with at least slightly plausible claims to cobble together enough cases. As cases pile up, companies often have no choice but to offer a big deal – pay plaintiffs to walk away. Of course, the litigators collect a significant portion of the payouts to cover their high legal fees. The Center for Truth in Science explains:
The aim of all of this advertising spend was to get customers to sign the respective litigation. The mass killing machine drives the numbers up when negotiation dates are set and settlements – rumors or real – are closed. According to a lead generator company owner, What [plaintiff lawyers] I hope the monsantos of the world come in and say there is $ 10 billion, spread it as you like. “
This is exactly what happens to the glyphosate cases. These cases are based on a single flawed assessment of the chemical made by a United Nations agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). These lawyers cite to claim that glyphosate causes cancer.
However, the IARC classification of glyphosate as a carcinogen is not even a risk assessment. It is only stated at some level that it can cause cancer, but it does not assess whether actual human exposure to this chemical is high enough to play a role. Additionally, it contradicts nearly every other government assessment of the chemical’s safety – including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – which has classified the risks associated with current exposures as negligible.
Still, litigators have successfully used that one assessment, along with the media hype, to generate thousands of lawsuits that Bayer is trying to resolve. While there is no solid evidence that its product harmed anyone, Bayer has offered more than $ 1 billion to cover 125,000 outstanding claims while creating a fund for future claims.
LawyersAndSettlements.com reported the breakdown of this offering in October:
Those 125,000 people cover 95,000 cases and at least 30,000 claims from plaintiffs who have not agreed to join the settlement (but they can still join). Bayer says it will make a payment of $ 8.8 billion to $ 9.6 billion to settle the current Roundup litigation, including an allowance to cover unresolved claims, and $ 1.25 billion to support one separate class agreement to resolve potential future litigation from Roundup customers who may not develop Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
However, the settlement is still ongoing, and litigation attorneys continue to market for more plaintiffs, which seems like a never-ending nightmare for the company. There is a real cost to these mass crimes that harm consumers. If these legal challenges ultimately led Bayer to discontinue glyphosate or policymakers forbid it, the costs for farmers and consumers would be significant. There would also be adverse effects on the environment as described in this magazine article.
The Center for Truth in Science highlights the costs associated with some of the other cases covered in its report and notes that even advertising itself can be dangerous. The report explains:
A 2016 Heart Rhythm Society publication reported 31 cases of people who stopped taking rivaroxaban, the blood thinner commonly known as Xarelto, after seeing negative legal advertisements for rivaroxaban. Seventy-four, point nineteen percent of these patients had a stroke or transient ischemic neurological event, two patients had persistent residual paralysis. Another patient, a 45-year-old man who was receiving rivaroxaban to treat deep vein thrombosis, stopped the drug and died of a subsequent pulmonary embolism. Another patient on rivaroxaban for stroke prevention stopped the drug and died of a massive stroke.
Further research has shown many adverse public health effects. Research has found that “there is growing evidence that misleading information and exaggerated allegations in litigation ads prevent people from seeking treatment or stop taking a prescribed drug without consulting a doctor.” The FDA reports that as of December 2016, health professionals had filed 61 reports of patients having discontinued their blood-thinning medication after viewing an advertisement critical of the product.60 According to the FDA, this resulted in six deaths and other patients the most common suffer from strokes. Mental patients are also at risk. Psychiatrists have reported that some patients have stopped their medication after filing a court report, and some have even attempted suicide.
Several potential new mass consumer chemical problems are on the horizon that could also have serious adverse effects. In particular, a misdirected health crisis related to ethylene oxide – a gas used to sterilize medical devices – already had a detrimental impact on medical care during the COVID-19 crisis. Potential legal disputes could lead to further plant closures in the future, which could lead to a lack of medical care in the future. You can find out more about it here, here, and here, and it’s the subject of an upcoming CEI study.
Also on the horizon are potential claims related to the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is essential to farmers for many different crops. This could be more difficult for the trial attorneys to fight, as the allegations about it are based on a particularly weak study done by an activist outfit at Columbia University. You can find out more about this here, here and here.
The Center for the Truth in Science report offers no solution on how to stop these junk science-based mass experiments, but the organization is working to promote unbiased scientific research. Specifically, non-binding grants are offered to scientists to help separate conflicts of interest related to government or industry funding from the scientific process. Hopefully adding an unbiased quality research will counteract the junk science that fuels much of this flawed mass experimentation.