A mass tort is typically a civil lawsuit where many different plaintiffs pursue compensation from one or a few defendants. A “tort” is a formal word to describe any wrongful conduct that entitles someone to compensation (Legal Information Institute (LII)). The word “mass” signifies that there are several plaintiffs pursuing action based on a similar type of wrongful conduct and injury.
A mass tort can cover many different types of wrongful conduct and injuries. You may have heard about them in the context of medical devices or prescription drugs that caused people to suffer harm. If you believe that you have a right to participate in a mass tort, a local personal injury law firm may be able to help you with your case.
Mass Tort vs. Class Action
One of the most common questions people have after learning about mass torts is how they may differ from a class action. Although there are some similarities between a mass tort and a class action, they are quite different tools. The most important distinction is how plaintiffs are categorized in the lawsuit.
In a mass tort, each of the plaintiffs is treated as an individual despite the fact that they are seeking compensation as part of a group. Each plaintiff will need to prove key facts and provide evidence related to their damages.
However, in a class action, the plaintiffs are treated as a group and referred to collectively as a class. Typically, each plaintiff in a class action will need to have suffered a similar injury. Because the plaintiffs in a class action are treated as one common group, they share in the same pot of recovery. In a mass tort, each plaintiff may receive a different amount of compensation.
In a mass tort, the plaintiffs have a common goal in seeking justice against the same defendant and may share information about the case through a nationwide network of lawyers who represent victims. In a class action, there is typically a smaller group of lawyers bringing the case on behalf of anyone who falls within the category of the injured parties they seek to represent. The court must also certify a class action before it can proceed as such. This can take a long time to complete, and the defendants may try to fight certification of the lawsuit as a class action.
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Common Types of Mass Torts
A mass tort is a tool that can be used to pursue compensation for many different types of wrongful conduct. Some common subjects of mass tort litigation include:
- Mass Disasters: when a major disaster strikes, like an oil spill, it can lead to many different damages and claims against the company or companies who caused it.
- Toxic Torts: this includes situations where a group of people was exposed to a toxic substance or chemical, like poisonous chemicals leaching into a waterway or exposure to lead-based paint and asbestos.
- Product Liability: this includes situations where the plaintiffs were injured while using an unreasonably dangerous product due to its poor design, a problem during manufacture, or an issue with the instructions or warnings.
- Pharmaceuticals: sometimes, prescription drug makers do not adequately test a drug, disclose all of the potential downsides, or include the right instructions with their products.
- Medical Devices: similarly, medical devices, like hip replacements or pacemakers, can lead to serious injuries that harm thousands of people.
Pursuing Compensation with a Lawyer
If you think you may have a right to seek compensation against someone who hurt you, it is important to understand whether you should seek that compensation in an individual case or a mass tort. For many injury victims, this may be their first experience with the legal system, which can make things even more overwhelming and confusing. This is especially true if you hear things on TV, the radio, or social media about a potential class action or mass tort that could apply to you.
Working with a lawyer can take the guesswork out of this process and help you feel confident that you have fully pursued your legal rights. A lawyer will review the facts of your case, track down any additional information that is needed, gather evidence on your behalf, and help you decide how to pursue compensation.
Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers can help you participate in a mass tort action or file a personal injury case individually. You can discuss your situation and how to proceed during a free case review with our staff. Call us now at (337) 777-7777 to begin. We represent clients in Lafayette, Louisiana.