In its most basic legal terms, a tort is an act that causes harm or infringement of a right for which the responsible party has civil legal liability. however, a mass tort claim is a lawsuit that involves multiple plaintiffs alleging similar injuries against the same entity. Unlike class action lawsuits that divide a settlement evenly between all plaintiffs, mass torts allow each plaintiff to seek compensation for their individual injuries. If you keep reading, you will learn more about mass tort, and the different types of claims.
Before going in depth with the different types of mass tort lawsuits, we need to make an important comparison. According to Cornell Law School, class action refers to a procedure that allows one or more plaintiffs to file and prosecute a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group, also known as “class”. To proceed as a class action Rule 23 requires that the district court make the following findings: (1) the number of class members renders it impracticable to join them in the action, (2) the class members’ claims share common questions of law or fact, (3) the claims or defenses of the proposed class representatives are typical of those for the rest of the class, and (4) the proposed class representatives will adequately protect the interests of the entire class.
On the other hand — as we mentioned before —, in mass tort actions, the lawsuit arise out of the defendants causing numerous injuries through the same or similar act of harm, such as a prescription drug or a medical device malfunction. In U.S. federal courts, mass tort claims are often consolidated as multidistrict litigation (MDL). These procedural tools can help courts manage cases more efficiently. They can also help injured consumers obtain compensation more quickly. The key difference between mass torts and class actions has to do with how, procedurally, the large group of plaintiffs is treated.
Dangerous and defective products are some of the most common subjects of mass tort claims. Manufacturers have a responsibility to ensure that their products are safe and provide adequate information to their consumers, and if they fail to do so on a large scale, these injured consumers can hold these entities responsible.
There are three main types of product liability mass torts.
Manufacturing defects: These claims allege that the product suffered a defect during the manufacturing process that made it dangerous to use.
Design defects: These claims state the defect is present in the product design and the product is inherently dangerous.
Failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions: This type of claim states that the manufacturer failed to inform customers of hazards it should have, leading to their injuries.
Mass toxic torts are a specific type of mass tort claim that involves injury or illness due to chemical or toxin exposure. People can suffer this exposure in many ways; for example, someone may come into contact with a dangerous chemical at work, inadvertently breathe in toxic mold or asbestos at home, or develop complications due to toxins in pharmaceutical drugs. Dangerous and defective products may also expose plaintiffs to these substances.
Man-made disasters, such as fires within a multi-household complex or an explosion at a manufacturing plant, can injure dozens or even hundreds of people. Each victim may suffer different injuries, but the same entity is typically the cause of the disaster. In these cases, victims can form a mass tort to secure compensation for their individual needs without filing separate, time-consuming claims.
Within the product liability category, dangerous and defective drugs and medical devices contribute to a significant amount of mass tort claims. Drugs may cause unintended, dangerous side effects the manufacturer failed to warn consumers or physicians about, and medical devices may contain defects that affect their purpose and cause harm to the patient. The manufacturers of these products are typically liable for their defects.
Similar to large-scale catastrophes, this type of mass tort claim involves natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes that cause significant damages and injuries. These claims can be complex, since no entity is directly responsible for the disaster. However, insurance companies who fail to pay out claims following natural disasters can be held accountable through a mass tort lawsuit.
There have been many famous mass tort cases in the past which you undoubtedly heard of. This type of litigation dates back to the 1960s and early 1970s, but it has grown significantly since its beginning. These are some of the main examples of mass tort cases throughout its whole history:
If you have any questions about mass tort, you can always contact a Personal Injury Attorney. Here at Malloy Law Offices, LLC, we handle a numerous amount of mass tort claims for many clients around the United States. This area of law is a very special practice that requires a lot of time and knowledge. That is why we always encourage people to contact an experienced attorney, so that he or she can walk you through the whole process. This is not a car accident, or a slip & fall case. This is completely different, so make sure to learn more about the mass tort process.