Because they involve a large number of many people, the parameters of a mass tort claim give rise to obvious, practical questions about how mass tort rewards are distributed. First, it might help to understand the exact nature of a tort.
A tort is a civil lawsuit against a party whose actions caused injury to the plaintiff. While this includes intentional actions that cause harm, many tort claims arise out of unintentional actions or negligence that cause injury.
In many cases a single defendant may be responsible for a lot of injuries, such as in the case of defective products (the Roundup trials, for example).
In such cases, the injured parties may file their own individual personal injury cases, which may then be consolidated into a mass tort claim featuring a collection of individual torts. For example, if the release of a drug causes various injuries to a large number of people, the individual torts may be grouped into a mass tort claim.
Compensation in Mass Torts is Not Handled Like Class Actions
Though the public often interchanges “mass tort” with “class action”, this use is incorrect.
In a mass tort, while certain evidence may be used collectively, no one plaintiff represents fully the interests of all parties to the claim.
A class action suit is a type of mass tort claim, but one that means a plaintiff must file suit and act on behalf of other plaintiffs as well as prove his or her experience coincides with the experience of the others.
Finally, class action lawsuits often result in insignificant rewards on an individual basis because the defendant may pay a lump sum that is then divided among the plaintiffs, with the plaintiffs bringing the suit and their attorneys often collecting a sum proportionally much larger than others in the case.
This means that many plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit will not recover fair compensation for the damages they’ve suffered. But a mass tort claim can more fairly allocate awards based on each plaintiff’s damages.
Determining Compensation in a Mass Tort
Mass tort cases often take years to resolve. Mass tort cases are made up of consolidated multi-district litigation against a common defendant—this makes sense, because it frees up the court’s resources.
However, each claim in a mass tort is still treated as an individual personal injury case. Rewards vary from plaintiff to plaintiff.
This can be advantageous for groups of people with similar claims against a common defendant but who suffered different damages. It allows each plaintiff to pursue and recover compensation commensurate with his or her losses.
This means that one plaintiff who suffers tens of thousands of dollars in damages will recover fair compensation, while another who suffers a few thousand dollars in damages will also recover compensation proportional to his or her damages.
But while compensation may not be equal among all plaintiffs in a mass tort, the lawyers handling the claims for the plaintiffs may share evidence and details of their investigations with other attorneys.
This helps to consolidate the cases so, for example, if an expert witness is necessary to speak to a key part of the case, he or she must only provide testimony once. Otherwise, the expert may have to provide testimony for each of the cases.
Plaintiffs thus benefit from shared resources of other parties to the claim.
Get Legal Help if Considering Joining a Mass Tort
If you are in need of a lawyer for mass tort representation, call Hensley Legal Group, PC, at (317) 472-3333 or contact us online to set up a free initial consultation to discuss your case and eligibility for a mass tort claim.