When similar injuries are caused to large groups of individuals, the advantages of a mass tort for plaintiffs include individual claims, higher monetary awards, reduced ligation costs, fewer judges and lawyers, less court time, and increased settlement negotiations.
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What Is a Mass Tort?
As defined by law, the term “tort” is a wrongful act that causes injuries to another person, while a “mass tort” is a wrongful act that causes injuries to many people. Typically, mass torts are wrongful actions committed by large companies and corporations that harm large groups of people instead of one or several individuals.
A mass tort is a civil action that is filed in state or federal court. Due to the large number of injuries that usually occur from a single action, mass tort lawsuits provide large groups of injury victims with a legal recourse to sue the plaintiff with a mass tort lawyer and recover compensation for damages. Mass tort lawsuits commonly arise due to injuries from the following:
- Defective Products – Defective vehicles and parts, medical devices, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, electronics, machinery, and children’s furniture, clothing, and toys. Defective products by manufacturers and distributors are responsible for thousands of serious injuries and deaths every year.
- Hazardous Chemicals – Exposure to hazardous chemicals can occur at home and in the workplace. An extensive list of hazardous chemicals includes cleaning supplies, degreasers, detergents, acidic liquids, glues, paints, corrosive solvents, petrol and fuel, asbestos, and herbicides, and pesticides.
- Environmental Pollutants – Hazardous materials and chemicals released into the air, the water, and the ground can impact millions of people. Oil spills, chemical spills, water pollution, and pesticide poisoning are major causes of illnesses, diseases, and deaths in people around the world.
Mass tort lawsuits are similar to class actions because they both involve large numbers of injury victims, however, there is one key difference. Mass tort lawsuits are usually filed individually, rather than in groups.
Class actions require class certification, and general mass torts do not. This factor increases the advantages of a mass tort for plaintiffs. In today’s legal system, class certification has become increasingly difficult due to arbitration agreements. Classes and individuals must submit to binding arbitration rather than taking their disputes to court.
Are There Advantages of a Mass Tort for Plaintiffs?
Class actions are just one type of mass tort litigation filed by large groups of plaintiffs making similar claims, however, the advantages of a mass tort for plaintiffs are significantly different. Although class actions and mass torts are similar, class action lawsuits are not intended for mass tort claims. Injury victims of mass tort actions often suffer serious injuries that result in thousands of dollars in medical bills, lost wages, and significant physical and emotional pain. Severe injuries and significant monetary losses justify the individual litigation requirement, which is a big factor in tort law.
Some advantages of mass torts for plaintiffs include:
- Mass torts include a smaller number of plaintiffs
- Each plaintiff files an individual lawsuit
- Each plaintiff receives more money for damages
- Plaintiffs have more power in settlement negotiations
- Litigation costs are lower
- Injuries include a distinct group of people in the same geographic area
In a mass tort lawsuit, each victim must file his or her own lawsuit. If numerous similar lawsuits are filed, they are consolidated into one court, at least during the discovery phase. This is an advantage because the information gathered by the mass tort lawyer in one case can be shared in other individual cases.
Mass Torts Versus Class Action Lawsuits
Class actions and mass torts are both types of litigation that provide a similar form of judicial relief. Because of similarities, the two types of litigation are often confused. In both types of cases, the plaintiffs are made up of a large group of individuals who have suffered similar injuries, and in both types of cases, lawsuits are consolidated into one action. Both types of cases are designed to address injury claims that arise when a lot of individuals are damaged by the same defendant.
The primary difference between a class action and a mass tort is in how the groups of plaintiffs are treated. Class action lawsuits are filed on behalf of a class of people (a large group) who suffer similar injuries caused by wrongful actions. To bring a class action lawsuit, members of the class must meet the criteria outlined in Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Class action lawsuits are designed to reduce the number of cases filed when thousands of people suffer harm because of the same issue.
In mass tort actions, each plaintiff is required to file an individual lawsuit. Legal actions are not filed on behalf of a “class” like in class actions where all plaintiffs in the class are treated as one. In mass tort litigation, a plaintiff’s legal rights are not automatically protected because they belong to a particular group or class. If damages are awarded, only those who filed an individual lawsuit will receive compensation.
In class actions, the total award is divided between the lawyer and the plaintiffs in the class, which could be thousands of people. While all the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit get basically the same amount in damages, those in a mass tort receive varying amounts based on their injuries. This makes mass tort cases more complex.
The elements of a tort claim rely on proof that the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s damages. Whether there is one plaintiff or hundreds of plaintiffs, the defendant will have an opportunity to argue his or her liability through a number of defenses. If you’re injured, it’s important to talk to a lawyer who can explain the advantages of mass torts for plaintiffs before you decide whether a class action lawsuit or a mass tort lawsuit will have the best outcome.