Are you unsure if a mass tort is the same as a class action? These types of cases have a lot in common but they also have important differences. While both types of cases involve injury claims made by a large group of individuals against common defendants, the way these individuals are treated under the law is very different depending on the procedure.
The primary difference between these two forms of lawsuits is a plaintiff’s level of control over the case. Mass torts are closer to traditional injury claims, where every plaintiff is treated as an individual in the suit. Class actions are typically larger than mass torts and include more plaintiffs. The tradeoff in these cases is that each individual plaintiff has little input into the direction of the lawsuit.
Compared to class actions, mass torts generally have more in common with a standard negligence lawsuit. Mass tort lawsuits tend to involve a large number of plaintiffs from the same geographical area. It is possible to file these claims in state or federal court depending on the facts of the case. Mass torts can involve single or multiple defendants, and plaintiffs may seek compensation for similar physical or financial injuries they all suffered as a result of the same event or events.
Most mass tort cases stem from an act of negligence or misconduct. While most mass tort actions target a corporation, these lawsuits could also name individuals or other corporate entities as defendants.
Mass tort plaintiffs must have more in common than simply sharing the same defendants, however. A valid mass tort case must involve multiple plaintiffs that sustained injuries at the hands of the same defendants caused by an identical harmful act. This could involve anything from a defective medical device to a chemical spill.
How Mass Torts Work
Mass tort actions frequently begin as a variety of individual lawsuits. For the purpose of streamlining the litigation process and saving the judicial system’s resources, judges will combine these cases into a single mass tort lawsuit. In large cases, courts may even consolidate lawsuits spread out among different jurisdictions. As long as these claims each share the same act of harm by the same defendants, the courts could join these lawsuits together into something known as multidistrict litigation.
Despite this combination, each plaintiff remains an individual party to the case with the rights that come with it. These individuals retain their right to have the attorney of their choosing but must work within the framework of having multiple plaintiffs in the same case.
In some instances, a mass tort action will proceed when it does not meet the criteria for a class action lawsuit. For example, a mass tort case can be viable even when the differences between each plaintiff’s circumstances might be too much to sustain a class action.
Mass tort actions can take years to conclude, but they frequently result in a financial settlement. These cases differ from class actions as each individual plaintiff has the right to refuse the settlement that is offered.
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Class actions differ from mass torts in that they are led by a small group of class representatives. Instead of each plaintiff in the suit remaining independent, the vast majority of the class members will have no role in directing how the lawsuit moves forward.
These lawsuits routinely involve large-scale injury claims stemming from dangerous products or medications. For example, class action suits can result from dangerous design flaws in a product or stem from a company’s failure to comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.
Class Action Requirements
Class actions do not require every prospective plaintiff to sign on before the case can move forward. However, there are important requirements about notifying every prospective member of the class as the case progresses. Anyone filing a class action must notify every prospective class member of the lawsuit and give them the option to opt out. These prospective plaintiffs can opt out of a class action and pursue an individual lawsuit with their own legal counsel if they choose.
Class action lawsuits are commonplace in federal courts. In fact, there are federal rules specifically designed for certifying class action lawsuits. These guidelines can be found in Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Rule 23 sets out specific guidelines each class action must comply with. These provisions require the following:
- Class size is large enough that individual lawsuits are impractical;
- Legal issues in the case are common across the class;
- Claims and defenses of the class representatives are shared by the class; and
- Class representatives can adequately protect the interests of the full class.
Learn If Your Claim Is Best Suited for a Class Action or a Mass Tort
The main difference between mass torts cases and class action law uits is the difference in the rights held by individual plaintiffs. Despite these procedural differences, both options provide an opportunity to recover compensation following an injury.
The Morris Bart law firm is prepared to review your case and advise you of your rights in a potential mass tort or class action lawsuit. Call us today at (800) 537-8185 to speak with a member of our team.
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