Negligence from large corporations usually leads to them getting bombarded with several lawsuits for their negligent behavior, which allegedly harmed others. These corporations fight to win these cases, but at times, the facts are usually against them. At the time of the settlement, they are required to pay is in the sum of billions. Due to the nature of the cases, with the large sums involved and them being issues of public interest, it is no wonder some of them have gone down in history as the most significant tort cases ever.
1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement is the largest class action settlement, with damages awarded at $246 billion. Mike Moore, the Attorney General for Mississippi, was the first person to forward a claim. Over 40 states would follow suit and bring action against all the big tobacco companies.
Smokers and their families had failed in their claims against the companies. The court believed that the decision to smoke was voluntary. Moore, however, stated that the state was left dealing with the cost of diseases brought about by smoking. Action had to be taken against the companies. The case was settled when the tobacco industry leaders had to pay billions for more than 25 years. States would use the money to fund projects related to smoking.
BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010
After an oil ring blew up when gas got into a well being drilled, there was a significant oil spill over the gulf of Mexico. Eleven workers lost their lives during the explosion. Over the next few months, the gulf turned black when the oil gradually spread, affecting the communities and destroying the sea life. Numerous lawsuits were filed against the company, primarily in fines and class representation. The company has had to pay over $18 billion in damages and fines.
Dieselgate: the VW Emission Scandal
When Volkswagen admitted to falsifying the green credentials of their diesel-powered vehicles, they were bombarded with lawsuits. A judge in San Francisco agreed to a settlement of $14.7 billion with at least five hundred thousand vehicle owners and regulators. The case is still ongoing in different jurisdictions meaning the final estimate might be well over $20 million.
The Enron Securities Fraud
The first major fraud of the 21st century, the Enron securities fraud, was also responsible for the downfall of Arthur Andersen, the auditor accountant for the whole thing. A USA energy trading company had kept its debts hidden in its balance sheets. These amounted to more than tens of billions of dollars in debt which, when found out, resulted in a full-blown criminal investigation and litigation against them. A Houston judge approved a $7.2 billion settlement on account of defrauding investors.
We have many other cases under tort law where the defendants were made to pay billions in fines for the harm they caused to others or the environment at large. Not all make it to court, with parties opting for an out-of-court settlement.