Although mass tort and class action lawsuits are similar, they have important differences. Both types of cases involve many different plaintiffs suing against the same defendants. However, the way each case is treated, and the role of victims in each scenario are very different.
The Difference Between Mass Torts & Class Action Lawsuits
Victims are treated as individuals in mass tort lawsuits, similar to personal injury cases. In class action lawsuits, however, each plaintiff is a part of a large pool of other victims suing the same defendants. This makes class actions generally much larger than mass tort cases, and involve many more legal teams. For this reason, plaintiffs typically have less control over class action lawsuits as opposed to mass torts.
How Mass Tort Cases Work
When a variety of similar individual lawsuits involve substantially the same injuries or illnesses caused by the same negligence, courts may decide to combine these cases into a mass tort lawsuit. Judges may even decide to combine these lawsuits together by geographical area, resulting in what is called a multi-district litigation.
Unlike a class action lawsuit, in mass torts each plaintiff’s case is treated as an individual case. These cases differ from class actions as each individual plaintiff has the right to refuse the settlement that is offered.
Examples of Mass Tort Cases
Mass tort case examples include:
- Multiple victims injured by the same defective device, such as medical equipment
- Multiple plaintiffs injured by the same hazardous conditions in a store or sidewalk
- Multiple plaintiffs developing illness due to defective drugs and household items
- Multiple victims falling ill from water contamination or chemical spills
Mass Tort Case Requirements
Valid mass tort cases involve multiple plaintiffs that suffer similar injuries or illnesses caused by the same act(s) of negligence or misconduct.
How Class Action Cases Work
Class actions differ from mass torts in that individuals are not treated as members of a large group of plaintiffs, represented by a small legal group. This means that each plaintiff does not have input or control over how their case progresses in a class action case.
Examples of Class Action Cases
- Injuries from car parts with design flaws
- Illnesses due to a company’s failure to comply with FDA regulations
- Hospital or nursing home negligence
- Employment discrimination
Class Action Lawsuit Requirements
- Individuals must be able to prove that they have sustained the same injuries or illnesses from the same source of negligence experienced by each class action member
- Individuals and/or legal teams must notify every class action member that they are filing their claim, and give them an option to opt in or out.
Other prospective plaintiffs have the choice to opt out of a class action, and instead seek an individual mass tort lawsuit.
Class action lawsuits are commonplace in federal courts. In fact, there are federal rules specifically designed for certifying class action lawsuits. These guidelines can be found in Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:
- Class size is large enough that individual lawsuits are impractical;
- Legal issues in the case are common across the class;
- Claims and defenses of the class representatives are shared by the class; and
- Class representatives can adequately protect the interests of the full class.
File a Mass Tort or Class Action Lawsuit
Individual plaintiffs have vastly different roles in mass torts vs. class actions, and both legal processes are very different. However, both cases involve plaintiffs suing the same defendant(s) for the same injuries related to the same source of negligence.
Learn if your case is better suited for a mass tort or class action case in a free consultation by calling 855-468-7626, or contact Sobo & Sobo online. Our mass tort and class action lawyers specialize in helping victims across the tri-county area win settlements in both types of cases.