If you’ve suffered an injury due to a widely used consumer product, drug, or medical device, you might have heard the term mass tort mentioned. What is a mass tort? A tort is a wrongful act (other than breach of contract) that hurts someone who then has the right to bring a lawsuit in a civil court to make the wrongdoer pay. Common examples are auto accidents caused by negligence, dumping hazardous waste onto another’s property, or assault.
A mass tort occurs when one party or entity injures many people the same way. Mass torts are commonly used when consumers are harmed by dangerous products, such as recalled cars or prescription drugs. Since mass tort victims have so much in common, they can band together to become plaintiffs in the same case, or a series of similar cases, against the same defendant.
They are represented by lawyers with experience in dealing with their specific injuries, often with years of expertise litigating over the same consumer product or drug. The mass tort process makes prosecuting these cases more efficient and less expensive, opening the door to faster and more fair recoveries. It also lightens the burden on courts and even helps defendants by letting them address similar issues in relatively few cases instead of coping with what could be thousands of claims, one at a time.
How Can I File Such a Suit?
If you have been injured by a widely used consumer product, medical device, or drug, you should seek assistance from an expert. An experienced attorney will know how and where courts and juries have addressed your type of injury and what evidence will be needed to win without having to “reinvent the wheel.”
Many of these cases involve highly technical issues of chemistry, pharmacology, engineering, or design with which your attorney might already be familiar. At the other end of the spectrum, large manufacturers and pharmaceutical corporations have nearly infinite resources and know how to beat inexperienced opponents.
Call an attorney to find out if he or she has the experience working on your kind of product before you consider filing a lawsuit. If a group of plaintiffs has already initiated a mass tort lawsuit, you may be asked to join if you experienced a similar injury.
What’s the Difference Between a Mass Tort and a Class Action?
When the claims of all the plaintiffs are nearly identical except for the amount of compensation, tort lawsuits might become class actions, where a large number of victims, sometimes millions, are all represented by one or a few plaintiffs. The class of victims must be examined and certified by a court; the requirements class certification is very strict. Although mass tort cases involve multiple plaintiffs, they usually do not become class actions.
Mass torts can appear superficially similar to class actions, particularly since both involve several injured people. With a mass tort, though, every plaintiff is treated as an individual, and the injuries of each plaintiff might be quite different. Because each individual in a mass tort action gets a chance to prove his or her injury, mass torts are typically smaller. A class action suit may have thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of plaintiffs, while a mass tort typically only has a few dozen.
Whether your suit is technically classified as a mass tort or a class action, your need for a skilled attorney is certain. Litigating a mass tort suit is not easy, and requires a firm with plenty of resources and skill, so choose your representation carefully.