A mass tort lawsuit arises from an act of corporate negligence or misconduct that harms numerous people. These cases can be filed in state or federal court. There can be many kinds of mass tort cases—essentially, any situation in which one of a few defendants’ negligence or misconduct has inflicted physical or financial injury on a group of people, often numbering in the thousands.
Some common types of mass torts concerned:
- Natural or manmade disasters that cause mass death or injury.
- Defective products that cause injuries.
- Faulty medical devices that harmed those who used them.
- Pharmaceutical drugs that cause dangerous side effects.
- Exposure to toxic chemicals that made people ill.
In some respects, mass torts resemble class action lawsuits. Both represent groups of people who allege that they have been wronged by a defendant. But there are key differences. In class action lawsuits, a case involving class representatives goes to trial on behalf of every member of the class after that class has been certified. With mass torts, however, each plaintiff is viewed as an individual who has to prove that they personally have been physically or financially injured, not merely that they share characteristics with a group that has been injured. And while class action plaintiffs are affected by negligence or misconduct in a similar manner, mass tort plaintiffs can suffer different injuries from the same act.
That makes these cases more complex.
For that reason, mass torts tend to involve fewer plaintiffs than class actions. Still, because they tend to involve plaintiffs from more than one area, mass torts are filed as multidistrict litigation (MDL). MDL cases—which now comprise more than half of the federal civil caseload, according to the American Bar Association—get routed to a panel of federal judges, which then decides whether to transfer the case to a transferee judge. That judge will appoint a lead plaintiffs’ counsel and oversee a lengthy, often expensive fact-finding process. The transferee judge may also dismiss the case or rule in favor of the defendant via summary judgment.
If that does not happen, the parties will try to reach a global settlement, sometimes after seeing the results of “bellwether trials”—individual cases that both sides pick to go to trial so they can see how juries respond. Should they be unable to reach a settlement, each case will go to trial individually; however, the discovery process will already have played out.
No matter how they end, mass torts take a long time to resolve, and for the firms that handle them, they are often high-risk, high-reward propositions. At LeadersinMassTorts.com, our goal is to streamline the process and expense of acquiring mass tort cases. If you would like to learn more about our retainer procurement program, contact us today, or call 855-MASS-TORT.