Understanding Mass Torts and Class Action Lawsuits 

Telare Law

Personal Injury Lawyer

In personal injury cases where a large number of people are injured by the same occurrence or occurrences, it is often best to join all of the claims together in one lawsuit. A personal injury lawyer can assist with the processes associated with mass torts or class action lawsuits. As explained by our friends at Eglet Adams explain, these types of cases are very similar, but also have important differences. Both involve claims by a group of individuals against the same defendant or defendants, but the plaintiffs are treated differently and have different levels of control over the case. 

Mass Torts 

Mass torts are more similar to traditional personal injury claims than class action lawsuits are. In a mass tort, every plaintiff is treated as an individual in the lawsuit. Mass torts typically involve plaintiffs from the same geographical area and can involve one or multiple defendants. Plaintiffs in a mass tort lawsuit may seek compensation for similar physical or monetary injuries that they all suffered from the same event. Mass torts arise from negligence or misconduct by the defendant and most mass tort lawsuits are against corporations.

Plaintiffs in a mass tort lawsuit must have suffered injuries at the hands of the same defendant and their injuries must have been caused by an identical act. Common types of mass tort lawsuits include defective medical devices and chemical spills. Often, mass tort lawsuits begin as several individual lawsuits and are consolidated by a judge into one suit. A judge can even combine lawsuits spread among different jurisdictions if the claims share the same act of harm by the same defendants. This is known as multi-district litigation. 

The main aspect of a mass tort case that distinguishes it from class actions is that each plaintiff remains an individual party to the lawsuit and retains all the rights that come with being an individual plaintiff, including the right to retain an attorney of their choosing. Each plaintiff also has the right to refuse any settlement that the defendant offers. 

Mass torts often proceed where class actions cannot. For instance, if the plaintiffs’ claims are not similar enough to meet the criteria for a class action lawsuit, the case may still be viable as a mass tort.

Class Actions

Class actions often involve more plaintiffs than mass torts. Consequently, each plaintiff in a class action lawsuit has little control over the direction of the lawsuit. Class actions are led by a small number of class representatives, called the named plaintiffs. Only the named plaintiffs will have a role in directing the progress of the lawsuit. Class actions often involve large-scale personal injury caused by dangerous products or medications. 

There are several requirements that must be met for a lawsuit to proceed as a class action. While every possible plaintiff does not have to sign on to the lawsuit for it to proceed, every prospective plaintiff must be notified of the lawsuit and be given the opportunity to opt out of the lawsuit. Further, a court must certify a class action lawsuit in order for the lawsuit to proceed. To receive class certification, the class size must be so large that individual lawsuits are impractical, the legal issues in the case must be common across class members, the claims and defenses of the class members must be the same, and the class representatives must adequately protect the interests of the entire class. 

A personal injury lawyer will best be able to determine whether claims by multiple plaintiffs should be brought as a mass tort or a class action. Call Eglet Adams today for their insight on mass torts and class action lawsuits.