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Mass Torts

Mass Tort Lawsuits

Mass tort lawsuits involve tort injuries or economic losses sustained by large groups of persons. Usually a large number of persons will be filing against only one or a few defendants. These are usually larger businesses or corporations whose actions have negatively affected the group of people.

In such cases, the losses and injuries can be quite severe, resulting in relatively high damages awards. These are to be distributed among the plaintiffs; however, recovery rate in damages is generally favorable in mass tort lawsuits. Some mass tort claims are filed as class action lawsuits depending on the circumstances.

What Are Some Examples of Mass Torts?

Mass torts typically involve three major types of torts. These include:

  • Mass torts related to disasters
  • Mass toxic tort claims
  • Product liability claims

A common aspect of most mass tort claims is that the danger has a potential to reach large amounts of people at the same time over a large geographic area. For instance, if the company unknowingly distributes dangerous products throughout an entire state, this has the potential to create many injuries.

What Is Mass Tort Litigation?

Mass tort litigation is a specific area of personal injury law involving injuries or losses to large groups of people. They most commonly involve injuries associated with defective products that have affected a large portion of the population. Because so many people are involved in mass tort claims, they are generally filed as class action lawsuits.

The majority of mass tort claims seek to hold large corporations and businesses liable for injuries to the public. The damages awarded in such cases can be staggeringly high. In response, some states have limited the amount of damages that a party can collect in a personal injury suit, especially those involving punitive damages for medical malpractice. However, plaintiffs generally receive what is considered to be a fair amount of compensation in mass tort lawsuits.

Most mass tort litigation claims involve personal injuries associated with:

  • Product recalls or defective products, especially car recalls;
  • Food, beverage, and water illnesses;
  • Tobacco injuries;
  • Cosmetic implants and surgically implanted medical devices;
  • Asbestos and other toxic exposure torts; and
  • Health code violations.

How Do Class Action Lawsuits And Mass Tort Claims Compare To Each Other?

Lawsuits involving more than one plaintiff against the same or a group of the same defendants are often joined together. This is done in an effort to reduce the number of lawsuits, which helps the court hear the cases without having multiple cases against the same defendants pending at the same time. While these types of lawsuits are called either class action or mass tort lawsuits, there are distinct differences between the two.

Class action and mass tort lawsuits share the following characteristics:

  1. They involve more than one plaintiff;
  2. The plaintiffs are suing the same defendants; and
  3. The lawsuits are combined in order to reduce the number of cases that the court must hear.

The defining difference between the two would be the way that they are treated by the court, as well as the injury or injuries that the plaintiffs experienced. To reiterate, class action lawsuits involve multiple plaintiffs with the same injury, while mass tort lawsuits involve multiple plaintiffs with different injuries.

Class action lawsuits involve a variety of defendants, such as pharmaceutical companies who manufacture medication, or a cell phone company who overcharged its customers.

An example of this would be if a group of fifty people were all given the same medication that was manufactured by the same company, and all of those people experienced the same injury from the medication. A class action lawsuit may be brought against the drug manufacturer; the key is that all of the plaintiffs share a common characteristic which would be the same injury from the same medication.

The group of fifty people who were injured by the medication may join together in the lawsuit in order to file one lawsuit against the drug manufacturer, rather than all fifty people filing separately. A class representative would be selected, and the entire class of people would be treated as one plaintiff.

As was previously mentioned, class action lawsuits must meet specific criteria. Any person who may have experienced the same injury as the other people in the class will be notified, usually by mail, about:

  • The lawsuit;
  • How they can join the lawsuit; and
  • Their rights in the class action proceeding.

Mass tort lawsuits differ from class action lawsuits in that although the plaintiffs have all been injured by the same defendant or defendants, their injuries may not be the same. Each plaintiff still needs to prove their facts and injury or injuries caused by the defendant.

If the group of fifty people was all given the same medication that was made by the same company and all of them were injured by the medication, but the injuries were different, a mass tort lawsuit may be more appropriate than a class action. When the plaintiffs have different injuries, they cannot be grouped together in “classes” as they can in a class action lawsuit.

Unlike class action lawsuits in which the class of plaintiffs is treated as a single plaintiff, in mass tort lawsuits, each plaintiff is responsible for proving:

  • The facts of their case;
  • That their injuries are caused by the defendant or defendants; and
  • That they are entitled to receive compensation or damages for their injuries.

This differs from a class action lawsuit, in which the chosen representative will be responsible for proving the facts, injuries, and need for compensation for the entire class of people.

What Type of Compensation Can Result from a Mass Tort Lawsuit?

Compensation in mass tort lawsuits can involve:

  • Economic damages awards to compensate victims for injuries
  • Product refunds or exchanges
  • Changes in local or state safety and health policies

Larger businesses generally want to avoid liability at all costs. Therefore, they will usually issue recalls of a product if they decide that it might be a potential hazard. You can check various listings to see if you have been affected by a defective product or a product recall. You may wish to hire a legal professional if you've been injured by a product or through other circumstances.

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