In recent years some big companies have faced significant lawsuits because of defective products or because a rival felt they were infringing on their patents. Samsung and Apple are constantly filing suits against each other for one thing or another, and the list goes on. Consumers aren’t afraid to take on big business either, with class action lawsuits filed against the likes of GM and British Petroleum in the last decade. We live in a society that’s defined by the ability and the opportunity to sue; sometimes it’s justified and sometimes it’s not. Here are five of the biggest that have been or are currently being pursued.
GM and Ignition Switches
One of the most recent class action lawsuits in US history involved one of the biggest automakers in the world. GM admitted that it had installed faulty ignition switches in some of its vehicles, and many models were recalled after several vehicles caught fire. Consumers weren’t ready to let it go at a simple recall, and multiple class action lawsuits have been filed against the company. That shouldn’t be too surprising, as the ignition switch issue did cause 13 known deaths. The largest lawsuit launched against GM for its faulty switches is for a whopping $10 billion dollars!
Gillette VS the Dollar Shave Club
In a rather transparent attempt to damage a growing rival, Gillette launched a lawsuit against the Dollar Shave Club in 2015 for patent infringement. The case involved a patent Gillette filed in 2004 for a protective coating designed to keep its blades from wear. It’s just one of the many ways that Gillette has attempted to claw back market share from the upstart shaving company that quickly grabbed a large portion of the razor market. Gillette, of course, claims its razors make for a much smoother shave, but you still need to use hydrating pre-shave lotions with their products if you don’t want to suffer from razor burn. The battle rages on to this day.
Philip Morris Faces the Music
For years, cigarette companies claimed that their products were perfectly safe. In the 50s and 60s their advertising campaigns even tried to suggest that there were actual health benefits to smoking. Over the past few decades, big tobacco has been exposed as the dangerous industry that it is, and there have been several studies showing clear links between their products and an increased risk of cancer. In 2002, the courts agreed that the company was liable for numerous health issues and $28 billion dollars was awarded to consumers affected in a class action suit.
Dow Corning’s Silicone Controversy
In the 80s and 90s it wasn’t uncommon for women to consider breast enhancement surgery. This normally involved the insertion of silicone breast implants. Consumer advocates were quick to claim links to cancer associated with their use, although the scientific evidence to support this theory was circumstantial at best. That didn’t stop individuals and groups of individuals from suing Corning and other manufacturers over the issue. Facing a never-ending parade of lawsuits, Dow Corning made the decision to abandon the industry in 1992.
Perhaps the most famous lawsuit of all time involved a lawsuit brought against McDonald’s. A woman named Stella Liebeck sued McDonald’s after being scalded by hot coffee purchased at one of their stores. There was certainly some merit to her claims, as she did require skin grafts as a result of the burns she received after spilling her McDonald’s coffee. But the judge decided the initial award of $2.86 million was excessive and he reduced the amount of the award to $640, 000.