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When a large group of people are injured by the same product or event, they may want to file a mass tort claim. A mass tort is a civil action brought by multiple plaintiffs against a single defendant or a few defendants. The plaintiffs in a mass tort claim have suffered similar injuries as a result of the same defendant’s actions. Below is a more detailed explanation about mass torts claims

Mass Torts Primer

When a large group of people are injured by the same product or event, they may want to file a mass tort claim. A mass tort is a civil action brought by multiple plaintiffs against a single defendant or a few defendants. The plaintiffs in a mass tort claim have suffered similar injuries as a result of the same defendant’s actions. Below is a more detailed explanation about mass torts claims.

What is a Tort and What is a Tortfeasor?

In order to understand the benefits of filing a mass tort claim, it is first necessary to understand what a tort is. A tort is a civil wrong committed by a person or company that results in some sort of harm to another, whether physical injury, emotional distress, or financial loss or property damage. A tort is commonly referred to as a personal injury. The person or entity that commits the tort is called a “tortfeasor,” and is legally responsible for the harm their wrong causes to the victim(s).

There are many different types of torts, but some of the most common include negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and battery.

What Is a Mass Tort?

When a large group of victims want to sue a common tortfeasor in a single lawsuit, the victims’ lawyers may ask a court for permission to file a mass tort action.

The court will consider the following, among other things, when determining whether to give permission: whether a large number of plaintiffs are involved; whether the plaintiffs are located near to or far from each other; whether the injuries suffered by the various plaintiffs are similar; and whether the claims made by the plaintiffs are associated with a common cause, such as a single product or disaster. If the court decides that it is appropriate to allow a mass tort action to proceed, the lawyers representing the plaintiffs will be able to work together to streamline the litigation process and ensure that all of the victims receive justice.

If the court determines that the proposed case is indeed a proper mass tort action, the case will typically be assigned quickly to a judge. The judge might order that notice of the lawsuit be published in newspapers so that others who have been harmed by the same product can join the lawsuit if they wish to.

What Are the Most Common Types of Mass Torts Claims?

There are many types of torts which cause injuries and illness to masses of people. The most common types of mass tort claims are for consumer products, medical devices, product liability and environmental contamination.

Consumer Product Mass Torts: A mass tort involving consumer products arises when a group of people are injured by the same defective consumer product. Some examples of defective products that have given rise to mass tort actions include automobiles and children’s toys.

Medical Device Mass Torts: A mass tort involving a medical device typically arises when a large number of people are injured by the same defective or dangerous medical device. Medical devices are really a subclass of consumer products. For example, if a pacemaker is found to have a design flaw that causes it to fail, anyone who has been implanted with that pacemaker may be at risk of serious injury or death. In such a case, the victims and their families may choose to file a mass tort action against the manufacturer of the pacemaker in order to seek compensation for their injuries.

Product Liability Mass Torts: A mass tort involving product liability typically arises when a large number of people are injured by the same defective or dangerous product. It too may be considered a subclass of consumer product torts. For example, if a car is found to have a design flaw that causes it to crash, anyone who has been injured in a crash involving that car may be able to join the mass tort action against the manufacturer of the car.

Environmental Mass Torts: An environmental mass tort typically arises when a large number of people are harmed by the same environmental hazard. For example, if a chemical plant leaks toxic chemicals into the water supply, anyone who lives in the area and drinks the contaminated water may be able to join the mass tort action against the company responsible for the leak. An example is the Love Canal mass tort action, in which residents of a New York neighborhood sued the chemical company Hooker Electrochemical Company for dumping toxic waste in their community. The residents alleged that the toxic waste had caused birth defects, cancer and other health problems.

How Can Mass Tort Claims Become a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)?

Mass tort claims may be filed in state court or in federal court. A challenge for lawyers and the legal system in general is that there may be hundreds or even thousands of cases caused by the mass tortfeasor.

Where there are many claims, handling all of them separately might be quite difficult for the judicial system. There would be a need for hundreds or even thousands of separate cases, each with it’s own judge, court staff, empaneled jury and scheduling requirements before the court. It would be very difficult for all of the plaintiffs to coordinate their individual lawsuits in different courts. Even if they could, the result would be a clogging of the courts, so that victims of injuries might have to wait many years before their cases would ever reach a jury.

Another challenge is that since mass tort claims arise from the same set of facts or circumstances — since the same source of injury caused the many torts — numerous courts, juries and counsel may produce court rulings and jury verdicts that conflict with one another.

To make all of the claims manageable, in the federal courts there is a consolidation procedure known as a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). The MDL process was designed to provide a more efficient way to handle personal injury cases that involve large numbers of plaintiffs.

By consolidating all of the pretrial proceedings in one federal district court, the MDL process helps to save time and resources. During the pretrial phase, the court will typically handle motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, and evidentiary challenges. In addition, the discovery process will be conducted in order to gather evidence and information from the parties. This helps to save enormous time and money for both the plaintiffs and the defendants, as well as ensures that all of the cases are decided in a consistent manner.

If a particular case does not settle during this pretrial phase, it is then transferred back to the district court from which it originated for the trial.

Mass Torts Compared to Class Actions

Mass torts and class actions are not necessarily exclusive. Mass tort claims can be filed or not filed as part of a class action. But what is a class action?

A class action lawsuit is a type of civil suit where one or more plaintiffs sue on behalf of a larger group, or “class.” Class actions are designed to efficiently handle situations where many individuals have been similarly harmed, but it would be impractical for them to file individual lawsuits. For example, if a new medication is found to have harmful side effects, anyone who has taken the medication and been injured by it may be able to join the class action.

A mass tort is similar to a class action in that it involves a large number of plaintiffs who have been harmed by the same product or course of conduct. However, mass torts are usually not filed as class actions. Instead, each plaintiff in a mass tort typically files an individual lawsuit.

The main difference between mass torts and class actions is that mass tort plaintiffs retain their own attorneys, while class action plaintiffs are represented by a single attorney or law firm who represents the entire class. In fact, the members of the class may not even know that a law firm is representing them, because permission from each member is not required.

However, while mass tort cases are not always filed as class actions, they may be consolidated into what is known as a multidistrict litigation (MDL). See above. MDLs are similar to class actions in that they involve a large number of plaintiffs who have been harmed by the same product or course of conduct. However, MDLs are not class actions. Instead, each plaintiff in an MDL retains their own attorney, and the cases are managed by a single judge.

The main advantage of mass torts over class actions is that mass tort plaintiffs retain their own attorneys, while class action plaintiffs are represented by a single attorney or law firm. This can be disadvantageous for class action plaintiffs, as the interests of the individual plaintiffs may not always align with the interests of the class as a whole. In addition, mass tort cases are usually managed by a single judge following a consolidation, while class action cases may be managed by multiple judges. This can lead to inconsistencies in the way the cases are handled and decided.

Overall, mass torts offer a number of advantages over class actions, including the fact that each plaintiff retains their own attorney and the cases are usually managed by a single judge. These factors can help to ensure that the interests of the individual plaintiffs are represented, and that the cases are handled in a consistent manner.