Consumer Countdown

  • Share
  • Read Later

12,000 babies become sick, and more than 130 die, after drinking powdered milk contaminated with arsenic. Morinaga Milk Industry Co. and Japanese government settle out of court in 1973 in Japan's first large product-liability lawsuit

First of eight suits filed against government and manufacturer of drug using thalidomide, which causes birth defects. Dainippon Pharmaceutical Co. agrees to settlement and eventually agrees to pay $20 million to victims in 1974

More than 1,800 people are officially recognized as being made sick, and over 100 die, after eating food cooked in Kanemi Soko oil contaminated with pcbs. After victims win lower court lawsuits, manufacturer appeals. A compromise is reached in 1987

Over a 15-year period, more than 10,000 people using a drug for diarrhea develop a neurological disease known by the acronym smon. Court allows statistical evidence to back victims' claims in case against drug companies and government. Final settlement in 1979 gives $540 million to 6,470 victims

The Consumer Products Safety Act goes into effect, establishing standards for potentially dangerous products like motorcycle helmets, baby beds, baseball helmets and soft-drink bottles

Hemophiliacs infected with hiv from contaminated blood products sue government and five pharmaceutical companies. The case mushrooms into a national scandal in the mid-1990s. Government and drug companies agree in 1996 to pay more than $420,000 to each of 118 victims, a settlement later extended to cover more than 1,800 victims in total

1990 -1996
Showa Denko company pays nearly $2 billion to U.S. victims who claim food additive caused rare blood disorder. Company paid compensation to only a handful of victims in Japan

Product Liability Law goes into effect. Plaintiffs no longer required to prove negligence, but winning in court is still difficult

Nearly 10,000 people in Sakai, near Osaka, mostly children eating school lunches, get sick from E. coli bacteria epidemic. One girl dies. Victims sue government under new consumer law. Court orders $415,000 paid to deceased girl's family in September 1999

24 homeowners sue Akita prefecture over building defects so egregious that their new homes tilt. The case is still pending.

June 1999
Miffed consumer with problem VCR sets up website to let off steam about the poor customer service he says he got from manufacturer, Toshiba. Within two months, website gets millions of hits from other disgruntled consumers

July 1999
In landmark case under new consumer law, court orders McDonald's to pay $950 to woman who vomited up blood after drinking orange juice. No defect in product was discovered, but judge ruled the drink caused the injury anyway. Lawyers predict result will trigger flurryof lawsuits

July 2000
More than 14,000 people get sick after drinking bacteria-laced milk from Snow Brand dairy

August 2000
Mitsubishi Motors president admits company hid reports of auto defects for 23 years. Company recalls 620,000 vehicles. Government prepares to file criminal charges

Next up?
New Freedom of Information law goes into effect in spring 2001 and could help plaintiffs in product-liability cases. But the documents that would most help them—consumer complaint reports—are exempt from the new law