Mass Torts Explained
Mass tort litigation is a legal action in which multiple injured parties bring lawsuits against one or more defendants (usually a corporation or other business entity) for harm or injuries caused by a common product, practice, or event. Some of the most common types of mass torts include Defective Products, Defective Medical Devices, and Prescription Drug Injuries. The attorneys in our firm have been involved in mass tort litigation for more than 30 years, often serving in nationwide leadership roles.
How are Mass Torts Different From Class Actions?
Mass torts are often confused with class action lawsuits, and while they have some similarities, it is important to understand the difference between the two.
In a class action, one or more plaintiffs is permitted to file a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group, or "class". If a settlement is reached, any proceeds are divided amongst the members of the class.
In mass tort litigation, instead of filing a single lawsuit, each individual files their own separate lawsuit, but the cases are handled together by one judge for trial, discovery, and legal ruling. Handling the cases “in mass” is more convenient for the courts, but each claim is still treated as a separate lawsuit and compensation is offered according to the specific damages of each injured party.
The Life Cycle of a Mass Tort
Mass torts are an important part of the legal world, bringing together thousands of individuals seeking justice for the harm caused by a single entity.
It’s important to remember that, just like any other case, mass torts can settle at any stage and either party can lose at any point. Collaborative efforts among lawyers from different firms are not uncommon in these complex cases, where numerous victims and legal professionals are involved. In terms of timelines, these cases vary greatly but it’s important to be aware that mass torts can often last multiple years.
What You Can Expect if You Are a Plaintiff in a Mass Tort
If you’re thinking you might have a mass tort claim, it is crucial to comprehend the various stages of the legal process that your attorney will be guiding you through. Here’s a quick rundown of the primary stages:
To determine the strength of your case, your lawyer will carefully review a significant volume of records, including plaintiffs' statements and injury allegations, delving into your complete medical history to identify any relevant pre-existing conditions. Full disclosure is crucial to anticipate surprises, as defense efforts will scrutinize your entire medical background.
Next, mass tort lawyers must establish consistencies among clients to qualify a case as a "mass tort." In instances where plaintiffs allege injuries from a specific medical device, the lawyer seeks similarities among claimants to prove the product as the cause, often involving identical or nearly identical injuries. The more claims and evidence, the stronger the case direction, with consistencies determining damages in a favorable ruling, emphasizing the importance of careful inclusion based on qualifying criteria.
Filing Federal Lawsuits
Mass tort claims are consolidated by lawyers, filing them jointly in federal court to streamline the process, regardless of plaintiffs' locations across the country. The decision to file in state or federal court depends on the litigator's assessment, with a majority of mass torts processed in federal courts.
Bellwether Trials and Multi-District Litigation
In the mass tort process, bellwether trials are sample jury trials held before the main proceedings, chosen from the most serious and similar cases to gauge potential outcomes. These trials, often involving individuals facing imminent death or who have passed away, serve as an experiment to assess how judges and juries respond to evidence and arguments. The outcomes of bellwether trials are pivotal, setting the stage for the rest of the cases; if the court rules in favor of the defense, other cases may not proceed to trial. Bellwether Trials and Multi-District Litigation (MDL) are integral components of the mass tort process.
Reaching a Settlement or Resolution
The final phase involves settlements or resolutions, with timelines varying due to the complexity of claims. Settlements may take months or years to reach, with most cases eventually settling. Even after a trial, there's the potential for appeals. Once settled, compensation is distributed based on individual damages. Defendants often propose settlements to avoid costly court decisions. Although no fixed timeline exists, the likelihood of a settlement with a higher payout increases with more claims and substantial evidence against the defendant in mass tort cases that can span several years.
Driven by Results
Guided by Experience
We are a mass tort litigation firm that believes a group effort is essential to success, both inside and outside the courtroom. Each of our firm's lawyers contributes their unique skills and experience, collectively forming an exceptional team that offers clients a robust network of support and a wealth of expertise.