5 Big Class Action Lawsuits: Facebook, Fen-Phen and More

  • Erin Brockovich's claim to fame

    A class action lawsuit is one that is brought against a company or organization by a group, often a huge group, of people. Class action suits tend to get a lot of press coverage due to the high stakes and the amount of money involved. Class action suits also tend to involve emotional issues such as faulty products that cause harm, sexual harassment, and illegal investment activities. Here we take a look at some of the most famous cases, starting with the case brought against Pacific Gas & Electric which was the inspiration for the film Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts. Photo Credit: Office of United States Senator Daniel Akaka
    Pacific Gas & Electric (1993)
  • Pacific Gas & Electric (1993)

    CLAIM: "A class action lawsuit was filed alleging that the electric company was aware of the fact that harmful chemicals were being used in production, which were seeping into the ground water and contaminating the water supply. This led to Hinkley residents becoming ill, suffering from various forms of cancer as well as fertility problems." (ArticleAlley) RESULT: The court ruled in favor of the Hinkley, Calif. citizens and the energy company was forced to pay out millions of dollars to victims. The case was the basis for the 2000 major motion picture Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts. $295 million was reportedly set aside for about 1,100 people (which would be over $268,000 per person). Photo Credit: Avarim
    Eveleth Mines (1984)
  • Eveleth Mines (1984)

    CLAIM: Jenson vs. Eveleth Mines was a 1984 landmark class action sexual harassment suit. In 1974 "the U.S. government forced steel companies to hand over 20% of their jobs to women and minorities" and this led to alleged widespread abuses and sexual harassment of women working in the mines. RESULT: The woman who brought the case against the mining company won. The case later became the inspiration for the 2005 major motion picture North Country, starring Charlize Theron. Photo Credit: Anthony Gostling
    Cryovac (1982)
  • Cryovac (1982)

    CLAIM: Woburn, Mass., a city with an unusually high incidence of leukemia in the 1980s, eventually filed suit against a company accused of contamination. The case was Anderson vs. Cryovac. The company supposedly contaminated the city's drinking water supply with carcinogens. RESULT: A multi-million dollar settlement was reached and the case became the basis for a 1998 major motion picture, A Civil Action, starring Robert Duvall and John Travolta. Photo Credit: NIOSH
    Fen-Phen (1999)
  • Fen-Phen (1999)

    CLAIM: In September 1997, the FDA removed "Fen-Phen" diet drugs from the U.S. marketplace in response to signs of serious heart complications connected to the drug's use. It wasn't long before a class action lawsuit was organized and brought against the drug's manufacturer. RESULT: "On October 7, 1999, American Home Products Corporation (now Wyeth) agreed to a class action settlement valued at approximately $4.75 billion to pay the claims of patients injured." (Source) Photo Credit: tacitrequiem
    Facebook (2009)
  • Facebook (2009)

    CLAIM: "Beacon was an advertising program launched in November 2007 which (roughly speaking) allowed the transmission of purchase and consumer-related information between partner retailers, Facebook, and of course, your Facebook friends," according to CircleID. Some users took issue with the program and the lawyers were called in... Beacon has been seen as invasive of users' privacy by publishing specific purchases and other activities. RESULT: The company settled the class action suit earlier this month, agreeing to establish a privacy foundation funded with $9.5 million (before attorneys' fees are deducted). Beacon is also no longer in operation. Photo Credit: benstein
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