November 4, 2019

5 Court Cases That Turned Out to Be the Most Expensive in US History

By: Colleen Jilio-Ryan | Posted in: Case Discussion

court cases most expensive in us history

Going to court can be rather expensive in terms of attorney fees and court costs, but you also have to consider the amount of the settlements. Settlements can often be in the millions of dollars, especially for class action lawsuits and other types of commercial litigation. Divorce and family lawsuits come in a close second. The following is a synoptic view of the five most expensive court cases in US history:

Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998

$206 billion payable over a period of 25 years was the settlement amount for one of the largest lawsuits ever against a manufacturer. In addition to paying the medical expenses for many smokers, the settlement money was also used to establish anti-smoking campaigns.

BP Oil Spill

The case involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and BP oil resulted in a $42 million payout. The spill occurred in 2010 and released almost 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the settlement received in this case was used for the clean-up and restoration of the environment.

The Smartphone Patent Wars Between Apple and Samsung

Patent law and the resulting patent disputes are both complex and extremely costly. The case between Apple and Samsung resulted in a $40 billion settlement. Between 2011 and 2012, Apple and Samsung battled in court with Apple eventually winning the case. Many cases are still being heard in court.

Wildenstein Divorce Settlement

The divorce between Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein in 1999 made headlines with one of the largest divorce settlements in history. Jocelyn received $2.5 billion, plus a yearly annuity of $100 million for the next 13 years.

The McMartin Preschool Trial

The McMartin Preschool Trial involved allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct against several preschool teachers at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California. Over the course of six years of trials in criminal court, the court ruled in favor of the teachers and all charges were dropped. The result was one of the costliest court cases in history topping out at almost $15 million.

The costs associated with court are numerous. When you think of some of these settlements, consider how much is awarded to the plaintiff and what portion goes to pay for the process of taking a case to court and to pay for legal service. Due process isn’t cheap, but in many cases, it is well worth the price.

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