A mass tort case handles many plaintiffs who suffered similar injuries from the same circumstance or incident. It can cover a few dozen to tens of thousands of plaintiffs in a combined lawsuit. They all have similar claims and may come from multiple geographical locations. Mass torts help conserve resources and streamline the lawsuit to benefit everyone involved.
Learn more about mass torts and whether one might be suitable for your personal injury case.
Understanding Mass Torts
Mass torts are a form of lawsuit enabling multiple plaintiffs to sue together. For example, if a defective product harms tens of thousands of plaintiffs, mass tort litigation can join these lawsuits so each plaintiff does not have to expend as much time and resources.
Most mass torts occur when a single cause leads to harm. Most of the plaintiffs have similar claims, injuries, or other aspects of their case. A judge may also consolidate cases from several jurisdictions. A multidistrict litigation puts the case in front of one judge who gives a single verdict in the lawsuit. For example, injuries from a single product can occur in many states, so a federal district court judge in Texas can oversee a product liability lawsuit for the entire country.
Examples of Mass Tort Litigation
These common examples demonstrate when a mass tort might be the right option for you:
- Defective product lawsuits
- Defective medical device cases
- Commercial plane crashes
- Dangerous drug cases
- Pollution and environmental contamination litigation
- Explosions or industrial accidents
- Groundwater contamination lawsuits
- Train derailment lawsuits
Mass torts can help these plaintiffs seek the compensation they deserve without the difficulties of doing it completely on their own.
Benefits and Limitations of Mass Torts
A mass tort is the right choice for many plaintiffs. This is especially true if they suffered similar injuries from the same accident or cause. Plaintiffs can gain several key advantages and benefits from mass tort litigation. These include:
- Each plaintiff is able to file their own lawsuit.
- Every plaintiff can recover their actual damages.
- Damages are not divided among a large class.
- Each plaintiff maintains control over their own case.
- Litigation costs are lower than filing an individual lawsuit.
- It expedites the discovery process.
- It increases the chances of winning compensation.
- It is easier to find and use experts in reviewing case information.
There are some potential limitations as well, including:
- Reduced control during the discovery phase
- Litigation may be placed in a distant court requiring travel
- Increased complexity of the case could lead to a longer case resolution.
You can balance the pros and cons of mass tort litigation with the advice of a knowledgeable attorney. Make sure to speak with a firm that is highly experienced in handling mass tort litigation.
How Mass Tort Litigation Works
Most mass tort litigation begins with several individual plaintiffs filing their own cases. They hire personal injury attorneys and file separate complaints against the defendant who harmed them. As the individual lawsuits pile up, either party or the court may seek to consolidate all of these cases into a mass tort litigation.
A court will ultimately decide whether the cases should be consolidated. If so, one judge will oversee the combined lawsuits. Some defendants attempt to fight mass tort motions simply to increase the costs for plaintiffs and force a lower settlement. An experienced litigator understands this tactic and how to handle it.
Who Decides If a Case Will Become a Mass Tort?
Under the federal judicial system, the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation decides any motion for mass tort litigation. This group of federal judges meets several times per year to decide whether individual cases should be consolidated. Many states, such as California and Pennsylvania, have similar processes for in-state claims. Many other states have their own rules on how to organize or consolidate cases.
The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation considers several questions to determine whether to grant a mass tort motion, including:
- Is there a significant degree of commonality in the legal issues?
- Are there a large number of cases associated with a single issue or product?
- Is the requested jurisdiction fair to plaintiffs, attorneys, and witnesses?
- Does centralization effectively use judicial facilities, personnel, and resources?
- Is there any geographical disparity between the parties?
- Could consolidation unreasonably delay progress, prejudice the outcome, or increase expenses?
- Would discovery coordination be beneficial to all parties?
- Is there substantial value in maintaining individual claims rather than consolidating them?
Once the court grants a mass tort request, it establishes a hearing date. This hearing sets pretrial procedures, forms, discovery plans, and many other details. Mass tort cases typically involve a significant discovery process, which involves exchanging documents and information as part of the case investigation. This highly complex process requires knowledgeable and experienced mass tort attorneys.
Are Mass Torts and Class Actions Different?
Many people, including some inexperienced attorneys, confuse a mass tort with a class action. The two share similarities, but they are different types of lawsuits. A mass tort combines many separate cases, but ultimately each plaintiff must still prove their own claim and damages. This combination expedites the process, but each plaintiff maintains ultimate control of their own lawsuit.
Class actions combine many plaintiffs into a single lawsuit. This usually involves a vast number of plaintiffs, from the thousands to the millions, who have an identical or largely similar claim. All are represented by a class representative. That plaintiff and their attorneys litigate the case on behalf of the entire class. This means that whatever the class representative does or wins affects the rest of the class.
Mass torts often occur when a class action is not permissible. Class actions have particular guidelines, while mass torts permit a more flexible approach to handling multiple plaintiffs.
A Mass Tort May Help You Win Compensation
After your injury, you may be facing severe physical harm, pain, and suffering. You also may have financial hardships from the accident. If you and many others suffered from the same incident, a mass tort might be appropriate for your case.