Personal Injury

What is a Mass Tort?

Mass torts, sometimes referred to as “civil actions”, are a sub-type of personal injury lawsuits, where a large group of plaintiffs can become a collective to increase the chances of bringing a successful lawsuit, while still keeping the unique attributes of each of their claims. These concepts can be broken down even further to three sub-types of mass torts, including negligence, intentional, and strict liability. With a stronger and more effective group of plaintiffs, there is a greater chance of obtaining a favorable outcome as they have more evidence to further the entire claim. This type of claim or civil action can be brought at the federal or state level, depending on the severity of the tort that the defendant has committed. 

For example, when looking specifically at the concept of a mass torts case claiming negligence, if patients were injured due to a pharmaceutical company who released defective drugs into the marketplace which were ultimately sold for millions of dollars to the American population, the injured patients may be able to receive compensation after suing the pharmaceutical company for lost wages, physical pain, medical treatment bills, and other damages which were all related to their injuries from the defective drug. 

In order for a mass tort to be filed, the plaintiff must contact the courts and ask for permission to file a mass tort lawsuit against the defendant. The court could potentially take several of the following ideas into consideration when granting permission for this kind of lawsuit. Some of these attributes may change depending on state and statute, but the underlying factors considered by the courts to grant a mass tort lawsuit include:

  • If a large amount of the plaintiffs are affected by a single issue or defect within a product, were harmed at the same event, or occurrence. This applies to all of the plaintiffs who are involved in the case.
  • If most or all the plaintiffs were in the same general vicinity as one another. 
  • If most or all the plaintiffs were injured in some capacity or in a similar manner, presumably all related to this single issue, defect, product, event, or occurrence. 
  • If all of the claims brought by the plaintiffs came from the same exact source: a single issue or defect within a product, event, or occurrence, which is responsible for the injuries or harms sustained.

From here, the judge must accept the paperwork that was filed to begin the  mass tort lawsuit against the defendant.

However, there are a few key points which must be noted, which make mass torts different than class action lawsuits or other kinds of personal injury lawsuits:

  •  While each plaintiff suffered some type of injury or loss due to the product or occurrence, they all have unique claims. Therefore, each plaintiff is seeking a different amount of compensation. This differs from a class action lawsuit where each plaintiff is seeking the same resolution or compensation. 
  • By having a stronger group of individuals collectively against one product, it creates a “strength in numbers” mentality, often giving the overall complaint significantly more credibility.
  • Mass torts specifically deal with a large number of claims which are all against a single product or action. Meaning, the plaintiffs have all been harmed by that specific product, event, or occurrence.
  • The underlying issue which each plaintiff brings is similar in that each plaintiff suffered harm due to the product, event, or occurrence, but each plaintiff has a unique set of damages and claims.  

If you’ve been injured due to a defective product, a personal injury attorney can advise you on the complexities of a mass tort and help you decide if your claim is eligible for a mass tort lawsuit. 

Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight on mass torts and its several distinctions.