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What is a Mass Tort Lawsuit?

To understand a mass tort lawsuit, let’s first define the word “Tort.” The legal definition for tort is when someone commits a wrongful act that injures another person. Therefore, a mass tort is when a single unlawful act harms many victims.

A tort is a civil act, not a criminal act. The harm may be physical injury, emotional distress, financial loss, or property damage. The person, company, or other entity that commits the tort is called a “tortfeasor.” They are legally responsible for the harm that their tort causes to the victim(s).

When a business or corporation is the tortfeasor, the injured parties can sue the company and recover compensation.

The Three Most Common Types of
Mass Tort Lawsuits

Negligence on the part of the company is the cause of most mass tort lawsuits.

1 Consumer Products

One defective or contaminated product can cause harm to many people before being pulled from shelves. Some of these hazardous products include car parts like airbags, toys that present an injury hazard, or contaminated food. Many plaintiffs can come together and sue the manufacturer for compensation for injuries or even deaths.

2 Medical or Pharmaceutical Problems

There have been many cases of death and injury from medical devices, such as implants, or prescription drugs. Although the company tested the item, it may not have been long enough. The unfortunate and unforeseen health consequences can be the basis of mass tort lawsuits. Some examples of implant torts include knee, hip, breast, and vaginal mesh.

3 Environmental Pollution

Industrial pollution can have far-reaching consequences affecting thousands of lives. Oil spills can shut down fisheries and destroy tourism for years. Toxic chemicals that leach into the groundwater supply are another cause of injuries, death, and a reason for mass torts. Another term for this is “Toxic Tort.” The most famous case was against the Pacific Gas & Electric company and inspired the movie, “Erin Brockovich.”

Suppose a manufacturer puts a product on the market with a flawed design, manufacturing defect, or without adequate warning labels or instructions. In that case, injured consumers can seek recovery for their losses by filing personal injury claims. The courts may combine separate lawsuits into one mass tort lawsuit.

Can I Join a Mass Tort Lawsuit?

Before you do anything, consult with an attorney. You’ll want to seek advice from an attorney with experience or who specializes in mass tort litigation.

There are two ways to join this type of lawsuit. If you are the first to file a claim, get an attorney to file for you. If there is already a case, have your attorney opt you in.

This type of litigation is much more complicated than a personal injury lawsuit. Although the same product has injured many people, everyone’s case is different. One plaintiff can receive higher compensation than another.

What to Expect from A Mass Tort Lawsuit

A Lengthy Litigation Process

It takes many hours of research to gather the evidence and information for each person or plaintiff in the case, multiplied by the number of people involved.

It is the pretrial stage that takes the most time. Attorneys must check similar injuries among the plaintiffs. You must have an attorney with experience in mass tort cases to look out for your best interest.

Just going to court and getting to a verdict can take a minimum of two years.

Because there can be thousands of people across the country who have suffered from the severe side effects of a product or drug, courts typically consolidate all these separate lawsuits into one multidistrict litigation or MDL. MDLs combine all similar cases for the pretrial procedures, including:

  • Evidence gathering
  • Motions to dismiss
  • Motions to exclude evidence
  • Interrogatories
  • Depositions
  • Expert testimony and
  • Summary judgment motions

It’s an unavoidable, but time-consuming process.

However, getting to court doesn’t mean that it will end in court. Most mass torts settle outside of court.

A Possible Settlement Outside of Court

Lawsuits are tremendously expensive on both sides, and there is the chance of an appeal that can drag on for years. Both lawyers and judges prefer to have an out-of-court settlement.

It’s also stressful and demanding for plaintiffs who must take time off work and possibly travel out of state. An out of court settlement can be the best option for plaintiffs because they get paid faster and receive more since there are fewer legal expenses than if the case went to a full jury trial.

One difference between a class action and a mass tort lawsuit is the individual plaintiffs retain the ability to accept or reject the settlement in a mass tort.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mass Torts

    Can I file or join a mass tort by myself?

    Technically, yes, but it is not advisable. Even if you file successfully, most likely, you will not have the resources necessary to see the trial to a conclusion.

    Does everyone in a claim receive the same amount?

    No. While all plaintiffs may receive a similar amount of money, the damages awarded depend on the individual case. You may receive more or less than others. That’s why it’s essential to have a competent lawyer represent you.

    If a mass tort settles and I haven’t filed, do I miss my chance at compensation?

    Every case is unique. For extensive damages over a prolonged period, there may be a settlement fund established to persuade more plaintiffs to come forward and file lawsuits. Check with an attorney to see if you still have time to file a lawsuit.

    What are the skills required to handle mass tort cases?

    Mass torts involve many plaintiffs with individual claims involving one product, device, or an entity that made a wrongful action. Mass tort lawsuits are different from a class action. These cases require tremendous resources in money and time. The firm must review and process thousands of case documents, work with many witnesses and experts who may live thousands of miles apart. A successful mass tort law firm has the financial capital and highly specialized knowledge to see the case to the end.

    What is the mass tort claim process?

    Mass torts involve many plaintiffs with individual claims involving one product, device, or an entity that made a wrongful action. Mass tort lawsuits are different from a class action. These cases require tremendous resources in money and time. The firm must review and process thousands of case documents, work with many witnesses and experts who may live thousands of miles apart. A successful mass tort law firm has the financial capital and highly specialized knowledge to see the case to the end.

    There are five general steps in a mass tort, but they can take many months or years:

    1. Review the records – The firm must examine statements and medical records to identify the device or drug and any injuries.
    2. Injury consistency – There must be evidence for the claim, such as shared characteristics or similarity of injuries among those harmed by a product.
    3. Federal court filing – The consolidation of individual cases expedites the processing and information gathering.
    4. Bellwether trials – A Bellwether trial is a test case. The results determine if the mass tort will move forward.
    5. Settlement – Most mass tort lawsuits end up settling out of court when both parties negotiate a fair settlement. Claimants can decide whether they will accept or proceed to a trial.
    How long will a mass tort claim take?

    Mass tort litigations can last many years until there is a settlement or award. They take longer than a personal injury case because claims sometimes involve hundreds of plaintiffs or more.

How to Find a Mass Tort Lawyer
Near Me

It’s easy to find the right lawyer these days. Search for “mass tort lawyer” + “your city, state or province.”

Check with organizations like:

  • The Mass Tort Trial Lawyers Association – For U.S. attorneys
  • U.S. News & World Report – Best Law Firms Rankings – For U.S. attorneys
  • Top Class Actions – A Canadian site related to class action lawsuits.

Other search terms to help you are “Medical Malpractice Lawyer” and “Personal Injury Lawyer.” Add the name of the drug, product, or incident to get specific results and to see if there is a case working already.

Make the Right Mass Tort Decisions