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What Is the Difference Between a Mass Tort and Class Action?

May 29, 2020 In Mass Tort

You may have heard about class action lawsuits, but you may be less familiar with the concept of mass torts. If you share a common grievance with a large group of people and you all wish to file a collective claim against the same defendant, knowing the difference between these two types of cases is very important. Both types of litigation involve similar grievances but have very different processes and outcomes.

What Is a Class Action?

A class-action lawsuit occurs when a group of people who represent the interests of a large number of individuals file a claim against the same defendant. These plaintiffs have similar grievances and are seeking compensation for the injuries they suffered, usually against a large corporation.

The plaintiffs named in a class-action lawsuit, also known as class representatives, reflect the interests of a single group. As such, the court treats multiple class action plaintiffs as a single entity, rather than individuals. Everyone who the class action applies to will have the choice to opt-out of the claim or seek their own legal counsel, and the court will need to pass a motion before the class representatives can represent the group.

The outcome in a class action lawsuit extends to everyone who the ruling applies to — even people who are not involved in its filing directly. As a result, these claims reduce the number of individual lawsuits for the same grievance. The compensation in these lawsuits can be very small, since the court will likely have to divide the settlement between many individuals.

What Are Mass Torts?

A mass tort is a legal action multiple plaintiffs can file against one or more at-fault parties in civil court. The claim involves similar grievances, and people who suffer physical or financial damages due to the negligence of a large company usually file these types of claims. Individuals can file a mass tort at the state level and at the federal level.

Common types of mass tort lawsuits include the following.

  • Injury due to dangerous drugs
  • Injury due to defective medical devices
  • Injury due to other defective products
  • Injury due to mass disasters and toxic conditions, such as the BP oil spill

The main difference between mass torts and class action lawsuits is how the court treats the plaintiffs. Instead of treating them as a single entity, the court considers mass tort plaintiffs as individuals, and the compensation each plaintiff receives will reflect his or her specific damages.

What Is an MDL?

A third type of lawsuits involving multiple plaintiffs is multidistrict litigation, or MDL. An MDL occurs when multiple individuals file lawsuits in federal court as a result of injuries due to a company’s negligence or harm. These individuals may reside and file their claims in different jurisdictions, and the MDL can help streamline the process.

In an MDL case, one judge will oversee all of the lawsuits and appoint a committee of attorneys to represent the plaintiffs. The MDL may result in a mass tort settlement, but if the case does not result in compensation, the plaintiffs may pursue damages through individual lawsuits.

Contact a Mass Tort Attorney Today

Whether you decide to file a mass tort or a class action lawsuit, your first step should involve contacting a mass tort lawyer who can handle your claim. Having an attorney on your side can provide a multitude of benefits, such as access to investigatory resources, a network of expert witnesses, and the negotiation and trial experience necessary to advocate for your best interests.

Contact your lawyer today to schedule a free consultation, discuss your legal pathways, and strategize your next steps.