The lead-up to mass litigation in the United States has a predictable sequence:

Executive Summary

Suits are mounting against social media companies alleged to have created addictions in teens that lead to mental and physical harm. Could this be the lead-up to mass litigation? Here, Praedicat SVP David Loughran reminds insurers that what starts as an isolated event quickly can spill over to adjoining fields drawing in new sets of plaintiffs and defendants armed with novel legal theories and evidence. In this case, he observes that social media liability fits within the broader sphere of algorithmic liability.
Commercial enterprises unleash a new technology that delights consumers and garners handsome profits for investors. Scientific investigation raises the possibility that the new technology is harmful to people or property. Regulators sound the alarm. Internal documents and whistleblower accounts suggest key companies are aware of the possibility that their products cause harm. The plaintiffs’ bar recruits plaintiffs and files lawsuits in multiple state and federal courts.

The events leading up to the recently formed federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) IN RE: Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Products Liability Litigation in the Northern District of California follow this sequence to a tee. As of late October, Meta Platforms, Snap, TikTok, Google and other social media companies face nearly 100 lawsuits alleging their products are addictive and that addiction leads to a range of mental harms; many of these lawsuits allege the plaintiff ultimately took his or her own life as a result of their addiction.

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