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What Are ‘Mass Torts,’ and How Are They Different from Class Actions?


Video Transcript

“0:00 What are mass torts? Mass torts usually

0:04 involve situation where you have a large

0:07 group of people suing a large

0:09 corporation or business entity. For

0:12 example, that business entity may have

0:13 released a product into the flow of

0:15 commerce which may have damaged people

0:18 such as a defective car part that could

0:20 have caused an exploding gas tank for

0:23 example and could have caused fire burns

0:26 to the passengers in most cars. Rather

0:28 than suing individually, these people can

0:30 join together in a lawsuit because they

0:33 all have a common interest. And it’s

0:35 a common fact pattern. And these

0:38 types of cases are also known as

0:40 class-action lawsuits.”

Mass torts are often confused with class action lawsuits, but the two are entirely different. Let’s explore mass torts with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.

What Are Mass Torts?

A mass tort is a civil action that multiple plaintiffs may file against one or multiple defendants in civil courts. These claims involve similar grievances, and plaintiffs can pursue them at the state or federal level.

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Unlike a tort that is a civil wrong against an individual, a mass tort involves a large group of people suffering injuries or harm from similar civil wrongs.

Common Mass Tort Claims

Typically, mass tort cases arise out of negligence, and the following are the most common types of mass tort claims.

Consumer Product Claims

Mass torts are quite common when a manufacturer or a business’s defective products cause harm or injuries to multiple people. 

Plaintiffs can come together to file a consumer product for injuries sustained due to dangerous or defective products, including malfunctioning phones, hazardous kid’s toys, and contaminated food.

Pharmaceutical Claims

Many pharmaceutical companies test their drugs and ensure they are safe for consumer use by following FDA regulations. However, some pharmaceutical companies are negligent and put profit over consumer health by altering test results or hiding certain information from the public and regulatory bodies. 

It can harm many individuals, for which they can pursue pharmaceutical claims against the company to recover compensation for the damages.

Environmental Torts

A business may put profit over the safety of the people and its environment by violating laws and dumping toxic waste in the waters, which can affect drinking water sources and marine life. 

Such negligence can lead to hundreds or even thousands of locals developing cancers and other medical conditions, reducing their quality of life. 

Environmental torts can lead to many plaintiffs coming together and pursuing mass tort claims against the tortfeasor.

Do You Need Permission to File Mass Tort Claims?

When dozens or even hundreds of people are looking to sue a common defendant in a single lawsuit, the victims’ lawyers must seek permission to bring a mass tort action from the civil court.

Before the court can provide permission, it will consider a few things, including the following:

  • Number of plaintiffs
  • Location of plaintiffs
  • Injuries sustained by the plaintiffs
  • A common cause of the claim.

Once the court determines that the case is a mass tort action, it will assign a judge to it, who may reach out to the other victims affected by similar wrongs to join the lawsuit by ordering the newspapers to publish details of the civil action.

Does the Statute of Limitations Govern Mass Tort Cases?

There is no specific statute of limitations for a mass tort claim across states, meaning that victims must follow the statute of limitations applicable to the type of case they want to file. 

For example, victims injured by a defective product in California have two years from the date of injury to pursue legal action. If they decide to work together and bring a mass tort lawsuit against the manufacturer, the mass tort plaintiffs will have two years to pursue a product liability mass tort claim.

There are exceptions to the statute of limitations, and the rules may vary from one state to another. Injured victims must speak to experienced mass tort lawyers to learn more about their legal options.

Difference Between a Mass Tort and a Class Action Lawsuit

Although mass tort lawsuits and class action lawsuits sound similar, there is a striking difference between the two.

In a mass tort action, each plaintiff has their own case and has damages unique to them. Every plaintiff in a mass tort action is looking to receive compensation for the loss, and they receive their own trial.

On the other hand, in a class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs are all grouped in a single lawsuit, meaning they are not treated as individuals but as a collective group. 

Since there is one single lawsuit rather than individual lawsuits, there is only one trial, and recoveries in class action suits are much lower than in mass tort actions.

Another great advantage of mass tort actions is that the attorney representing one victim can provide the same evidence and documents to the other attorneys to expedite the proceedings.

Difference Between a Mass Tort and Multi-district Litigation

Multi-district litigation and mass tort lawsuit involve plaintiffs with the same grievance seeking compensation for their loss. However, many mass tort cases are combined across states in multi-district litigation to speed up proceedings. 

Multi-district litigations are cases on the national level, and the court requires these cases to be put together for pre-trial proceedings. However, each plaintiff has their own attorney and receives their own trial.

Awards for multi-district litigation are much greater than what the court would award in a class action lawsuit.

How Can Mass Tort Attorneys Help Injured Victims?

A mass tort attorney understands the rules and laws pertaining to the type of case and can bring many benefits to a mass tort case.

Experienced mass tort attorneys can access expert testimonials as they work closely with medical experts. Such testimonials can help strengthen a mass tort case and increase the chances of recovering compensation.

Pursuing mass tort litigation differs from filing a personal injury claim against the defendant. Mass tort attorneys know the mass tort process and can help handle the legal aspects of the case, the process, and the administration.

Most mass tort cases have additional injured victims unaware of an ongoing lawsuit, and mass tort attorneys can help identify these victims and add them to the legal process.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law

Mass tort litigation can be challenging and complex, especially when handling many victims with similar grievances.

If you’ve suffered injuries due to another’s negligence, you don’t have much time to pursue civil action. Contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation with our experienced mass tort attorneys to learn more about your rights and legal options.

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