Firm-Wide blog

What is the Difference Between Mass Tort Litigation And Class Action Litigation?

By Burg Simpson
December 13, 2018
3 min read

Mass Tort litigation and Class Action litigation both handle negligence cases with multiple victims, but each has very specific ways of handling these kinds of matters.

Mass tort cases and class action lawsuits share certain similarities:

  • A large group of plaintiffs who claim they have been hurt.
  • Common defendants who have been accused of causing that harm.
  • Consolidating the lawsuit into a single action rather than being filed as separate individual lawsuits.

But there are also distinct differences between these two types of litigation:

Class Action Lawsuits

 A class action suit is filed by a large group of plaintiffs referred to as the “class.” A class representative stands in for the entire group. This means that everyone in the class is treated as a single plaintiff. The class representative sues the defendants, and the lawsuit filed on behalf of all of the plaintiffs collectively.

Once the suit is filed, a judge must decide if it qualifies as a class action under state or federal law. This process is known as “certification.”

If the lawsuit is successful, whether through a favorable verdict or a settlement, the class participants have one of three options:

  • File a claim for compensation.
  • Elect out of the class and file a separate lawsuit.
  • Do nothing and forfeit both compensation and the chance to pursue individual litigation.

Mass Tort Litigation

Mass tort is a civil action involving multiple plaintiffs against one or more defendants. When companies make mistakes that injure people, whether it’s a pharmaceutical company or the manufacturer of a medical device, the law allows an injured person to prove that a “tort” has occurred. A “tort” is any harm to a person or property caused by another party. A mass tort is injury on a larger scale.

Unlike class action lawsuits, mass torts involve multiple claims, but they are centered on a single product. The basic facts of mass tort claims are comparable, and the individual claims are related financially.

Mass tort litigation is a complex area of law because of the issues involved. These include:

  • Whether it should be filed at the state or federal level.
  • Potential large numbers of plaintiffs and/or defendants.
  • State laws differ on levels of damages, and which are valid.
  • States also vary on statutes of limitations and liability levels.

The key distinction between mass tort and class action suits is that each plaintiff in a mass tort litigation case is treated as an individual. Mass tort actions are filed individually rather than collectively. This also requires that the facts surrounding the case must be collected from each plaintiff. Damages, which include medical expenses, lost income and future earnings, and pain and suffering, must also be assessed for each and every plaintiff associated with the case.

Mass torts typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Product liability (or defective product): This can include medical devices, drugs, or any other consumer product.
  • Mass toxic torts: These represent victims of large-scale exposure to deadly chemicals, such as dioxin, asbestos.
  • Mass disaster torts: These represent single tragic events such as plane or train crashes.

Consulting with a Lawyer

If you have been seriously injured by an unsafe product or medical device, you need help from an attorney. Burg Simpson’s mass tort lawyers, class action attorneys, and personal injury lawyers have decades of experience handling tort cases. If you or someone you love has been left seriously injured by a defective medical device or dangerous drug, call Colorado Burg Simpson at 303-792-5595 or complete our Free Case Evaluation Form.

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