Mass tort litigation is an area of personal injury law which involves losses or injuries to large groups of individuals. Mass tort litigation often involves injuries that occur as a result of defective products that have affected large portions of the population.
Due to the fact that there are so many individuals involved in mass tort claims, they may be filed as class action lawsuits. Mass tort claims often seek to hold a large corporation or business liable for injuries to the public.
Damages awards in these types of cases may be staggeringly high. Because of this, some states have limited the amount of damages which a party is able to collect in a personal injury lawsuit. This is especially true for those involving punitive damages in medical malpractice cases.
It is important to note that plaintiffs typically receive a fair amount of compensation in a mass tort lawsuit.
What Are Some Examples of Mass Torts?
A mass tort typically involves one of the three major types of torts, including:
- Mass torts related to disasters;
- Mass toxic tort claims; and
- Product liability claims.
One common aspect of mass tort claims is that the danger has the potential to reach a large number of individuals at the same time over a large geographic area. For example, when a company unknowingly distributes a dangerous product throughout an entire state, this has the potential to create many injuries.
What Types of Personal Injuries are Commonly Involved in Mass Litigation?
The majority of mass tort litigation claims involve personal injuries which are related to:
- 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.
There are also many other types of personal injury claims which may fall under the category of mass litigation laws. This will depend upon the nature of the injuries involved as well as the personal injury laws of each state.
What Should I Do If I Believe I Have a Mass Tort Claim?
For the most part, a mass tort lawsuit is a very, very complicated type of claim. These cases are best managed through the expert assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney.
If an individual has been injured in what may be a mass tort claim, they should take the following steps:
- Compile documents and forms that may be related to any injuries, including:
- hospital bills;
- medicine receipts; and
- pay stubs for proving lost wages;
- Keep all information related to witnesses and witness testimony; and
- The individual may wish to speak with other individuals who may have been injured by the same cause. It is important however, not to divulge any information to different individuals without their attorney’s consent.
What Type of Compensation Can Result from a Mass Tort Lawsuit?
Compensation in a mass tort lawsuit may include:
- Economic damages awards which compensate victims for their injuries;
- Product refunds or exchanges; and
- Changes in local or state safety and health policies.
A larger business will typically want to avoid liability at any cost. Because of this, they will typically issue a recall of a product if they determine that it may be a potential hazard.
An individual can check various listings to see if they have been affected by a defective product or a product recall. An individual may wish to consult with a legal professional if they have been injured by a product or through other circumstances.
What are Mass Tort Lawsuits: Multiple Plaintiffs with Different Injuries?
Mass tort lawsuits typically involve multiple plaintiffs, or individuals who have been injured, who have been injured by the same defendant or defendants. A mass tort lawsuit may differ from a class action lawsuit because, although the plaintiffs were all injured by the same defendant or defendants, their injuries may be different.
Each plaintiff will be required to prove their injuries were caused by the defendant. A mass tort claim is sometimes referred to as a mass toxic tort, depending upon the cause of the injuries and defendants involved, especially if the injury or injuries were caused by toxic exposure.
For example, if a group of 50 individuals were all given the same medication made by the same company and all of the individuals were injured by that medication, but their injuries were different, a mass tort lawsuit may be a more appropriate choice than a class action lawsuit. If the plaintiffs suffered different injuries, they cannot be grouped together in classes as they can in a class action lawsuit.
In contrast to class action lawsuits, where the class, or group, of plaintiffs is treated as a single plaintiff, in mass tort lawsuits, each plaintiff is responsible for proving:
- The facts of their case;
- That the defendant or defendants caused their injuries; and
- That they are entitled to receive damages, or compensation, for their injuries.
It is important to note that this differs from class action lawsuits, where a chosen representative is responsible for proving the facts, injuries, and need for compensation for the entire class of individuals.
What are Class Action Lawsuits: Multiple Plaintiffs with the Same Injury?
Class action lawsuits involve multiple plaintiffs who have experienced the same injury as a result of the same defendant or defendants. In class action lawsuits, there are:
- Multiple plaintiffs, or individuals, who have been injured;
- The injury or injuries incurred are the same or substantially similar; and
- The injured individuals are suing the same defendants.
In class action lawsuits, plaintiffs are typically grouped by classes based upon their injuries. A representative is then selected to protect the interests of each class.
The group of plaintiffs, or class, is treated as one single plaintiff through the representative of the class. A class action lawsuit may involve a variety of defendants, including pharmaceutical companies that manufactured medication or cell phone companies that overcharged their customers.
For example, suppose a group of 50 individuals were all given the same medication that was manufactured by the same company and all of those individuals experienced the same injury from the medication. In that case, a class action lawsuit may be brought against the manufacturer of the drug.
The key is that all of the plaintiffs share one common characteristic, that they sustained the same injury from the same medication. If this occurred, the 50 individuals who were injured by the medication could join together in the lawsuit and file one lawsuit against the drug manufacturer rather than all fifty individuals filing separately.
One class representative would be selected and the entire class of individuals would then be treated as one plaintiff, reducing the number of lawsuits from 50 to 1. Class action lawsuits are required to meet very specific criteria.
Individuals who may have experienced the same injuries as other individuals in the class will be notified, typically by mail, regarding:
- The lawsuit;
- How they can join the lawsuit; and
- Their rights in the class action proceeding.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with a Mass Tort Claim?
As previously noted, mass tort litigation is an extremely complex area of law due to the numerous individuals involved as well as the scope of injuries. In addition, the laws governing mass tort litigation may vary by state.
In the majority of cases, it is necessary to have the assistance of a qualified tort lawyer when participating in mass tort litigation. It will be advantageous for you to seek the advice of a lawyer who can help you gather evidence, file your claim, and represent you in court.
In addition, if you have any other concerns or disputes, your lawyer can assist you with those issues as well.