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What is a Mass Tort?

Posted by Aimee Wagstaff | Feb 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

Here at Andrus Wagstaff, PC, we help people who've suffered injury as a result of dangerous drugs or defective products. Headquartered in Denver, we represent personal injury victims all across the country and fight for financial compensation on their behalf.

We are a national mass tort law firm. You might be wondering what “mass tort” means, or whether there is a difference between mass tort and class action.

It might be helpful to start by defining the word “tort” and then going from there. Tort is just a formal word for a “wrongful action” that causes injury. Some torts are accidental; others are intentional. In either case, the injured victims can file a civil lawsuit to recover compensation for their damages.

A mass tort is a single wrongful action that causes injury to many different people. These injured people can come together in a single mass tort lawsuit, seeking justice for their various injuries against just one defendant (or maybe a few). Mass tort actions can make it much easier for plaintiffs to succeed against giant defendants like product and medication manufacturers.

What's the Difference Between Mass Tort and Class Action?

Courts have different tools for managing mass torts, including class-action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation (MDL). These procedural tools can help courts manage cases more efficiently. They can also help injured consumers obtain compensation more quickly. Both types of procedural actions share these similarities:

  • Large group of plaintiffs have been allegedly harmed.
  • The same common defendants are alleged to have caused that harm.
  • The lawsuit is consolidated into one action, and not into separate individual lawsuits.

The key difference between mass torts and class actions has to do with how, procedurally, the large group of plaintiffs is treated. The number of people injured in mass tort cases are sometimes smaller than those injured in larger class actions. With mass torts, each plaintiff, even though they are part of a large group, is treated as an individual. That means, for instance, that for each plaintiff certain facts need to be established, including anything individual to that particular plaintiff, and how that person has been damaged by the actions of defendant.

On the other hand, in a class action the large group of plaintiffs, known collectively as the class, are represented by a class representative, who stands in for the rest of the class. This means all members of the class are treated as one plaintiff, not separately.

Large numbers of personal injury claims over bad drugs and dangerous devices can clog court dockets. Some courts centralize cases with a single judge in order to handle them more efficiently. In the federal court system, this is known as multidistrict litigation (MDL). If large numbers of similar cases have been filed against common defendants, with many new filings expected, the court system may decide to transfer those cases to a single judge. A single judge oversees and administers the cases so that they can be resolved more efficiently.

There are many benefits to participating in a mass tort action, including the ability to navigate many of the pre-trial proceedings together with other plaintiffs, sharing each other's investigations, discoveries, resources, and ideas.

Learn More About Your Rights from Our National Mass Tort Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured due to an accident, a dangerous drug, a defective product, or a medical device, you may benefit from a mass tort action. Contact our office right away to learn more about your rights or to schedule a free consultation.

About the Author

Aimee Wagstaff



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