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Mass Tort vs Class Action Lawsuits

Author
Anne K
August 5, 2023

In the complex landscape of legal proceedings, two terms frequently arise when discussing multiple claims arising from similar incidents: mass tort and class action lawsuits. While both concepts involve multiple plaintiffs seeking compensation for harms suffered, they represent distinct approaches within the realm of civil litigation. Understanding the nuances between mass tort and class action lawsuits is essential for individuals navigating legal matters or simply seeking to grasp the intricacies of the legal system. This article aims to shed light on the key differences between these two legal frameworks, clarifying when and how each is employed, and providing insight into their implications for plaintiffs and defendants alike.

What are the Differences?

What’s the difference between mass tort and class action lawsuits? It’s a common question – after all, most people haven’t been through law school. Most of us have seen commercials that refer to class action lawsuits, but there’s little mention of mass tort outside legal circles.

In addition, many of us only take a closer look at the two options when we’re thinking about joining a personal injury group lawsuit.

Whether you’re seeking information or taking part in a personal injury group lawsuit, this explanation will clear any confusion you might have. After all, there are some clear similarities between mass tort and class action lawsuits, along with some marked differences.

Mass Tort and Class Action Lawsuits Defined

Before we look at the similarities between class action lawsuits and mass tort, let’s take a second to define each of these terms.

Class Action Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit is a legal action that is filed on behalf of a group of plaintiffs. For example, the plaintiffs might be people who suffered serious side effects from a medication, or who were injured in some other way. To be part of a class action lawsuit, all plaintiffs must share similar injuries with a similar level of severity.

In class action lawsuits, the court authorizes a single entity – that might be just one lawyer or a group of people such as a law firm – to represent the “class” of plaintiffs. Those plaintiffs proceed as an entire group against the defendant, in a single case.

If the defendant in a class action lawsuit loses and the court awards financial recompense, all claimants who are part of the class receive an equal share of the compensation.

Mass Tort

A mass tort is a legal action in which many individual lawsuits are filed against a single entity – often a pharmaceutical company or a manufacturer that produced a dangerous or defective device. Mass torts occur when injuries vary in severity, even though they are the result of the same act, event, or product.

In mass tort cases, plaintiffs pursue their claims individually rather than as a group. This means that proceedings involve multiple cases rather than a single case. Some mass torts include thousands or even tens of thousands of individual cases.

If the defendant in a mass tort loses and the court awards financial compensation, each claimant receives individual recompense.

Similarities Between Mass Tort and Class Action Lawsuits

Both mass tort and class action lawsuits allow a single attorney or a group of attorneys to represent multiple parties. Both types of litigation can also include nationwide networks of attorneys who work together, pooling their resources to uncover evidence, share information, and collaborate to give plaintiffs the best possible opportunity to receive fair compensation.

Entities that cause major catastrophes, produce drugs that are recalled, or cause any kind of injury on a widespread scale can be involved in class action lawsuits and mass tort litigation alike, but the type of personal injury case depends on similarities and differences between the injuries involved.

During the course of a mass tort or class action lawsuit, all information discovered during the investigation can be shared between cases.

Class Action Lawsuit

Differences Between Mass Tort and Class Action Lawsuits

The number of cases involved:

One of the main differences between a mass tort and a class-action lawsuit is the number of cases that go before the court.

  • A class-action lawsuit is a single case with multiple parties that as a group, are seen as a single plaintiff.
  • A mass tort can involve a vast number of individual cases where plaintiffs have similar circumstances, but in which those injuries are different enough to warrant individual claims.

Severity of injuries:

In a class-action lawsuit, all claims are identical. That’s a distinction that allows for the formation of a single case. In a mass tort, the claims have different degrees of severity, but they all involve the same cause, circumstances, or product.

Type of legal action:

While both mass tort and class action lawsuits are consolidated for the purpose of litigation, class action lawsuits are heard by a single court. Mass tort cases are often consolidated via multidistrict litigation (MDL), which happens after multiple cases are filed in different districts, but against the same defendant.

These cases then come together in a single court where a single federal judge presides. The cases are litigated together and testimonies are heard only once, but each individual case is weighed on its own merit.

Advantages of Mass Tort

Mass tort lawsuits offer several distinct advantages for individuals seeking legal recourse when compared to other litigation approaches. One of the primary benefits is the recognition of individual circumstances within the collective action. In a mass tort, each plaintiff's case is treated as unique, acknowledging the personalized experiences and damages suffered. This individualized attention ensures that compensation awarded is more reflective of the actual harm caused to each plaintiff, promoting a sense of fairness and justice. Unlike class action lawsuits where a single set of facts and circumstances applies to all plaintiffs, mass torts allow for a deeper exploration of each plaintiff's situation, potentially resulting in more accurate and tailored outcomes.

Furthermore, the flexibility of mass tort litigation can expedite the legal process and lead to faster resolutions. While class action lawsuits necessitate a more uniform approach and may involve extended periods of negotiation to achieve consensus among a large group of plaintiffs, mass torts can progress at varying paces for each individual case. This means that if one case reaches a settlement or verdict, it doesn't necessarily impact the timeline or outcome of others. This flexibility can be advantageous for plaintiffs who may be in different stages of their recovery or require varying degrees of compensation. Ultimately, the ability to address each case on its own merits and expedite proceedings where possible underscores the efficiency of mass torts in delivering justice to those who have suffered harm from a common source.

Need Help?

Personal injury claims can be complicated. We’re here to help If you have questions, or if you need more information about the differences between mass tort and class action lawsuits.

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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