Most people have heard of class action lawsuits, but few have heard of mass torts, and even fewer know the difference between the two. However, if you’ve been injured by a bad drug or device, you’re more likely to join a mass tort rather than a class action. It’s important to understand both terms so you know exactly what you’re getting into if you ever have to file a claim against a large corporation.
Individual vs. Group
First, let’s define the terms:
Mass Tort: a grouping of individual personal injury claims filed against the same party
Class Action: one suit filed on behalf of all of the people against the same party
In a mass tort, individual lawsuits are maintained, but in a class action, everyone is grouped together into the same lawsuit.
Why Personal Injury Cases Are Often Mass Torts
Imagine you and your friend underwent the same surgery and the surgeon implanted a device in both of you that ended up being recalled. For you, the device caused pain, infection, and multiple surgeries to remove the device. The infection permanently affected your short term memory. Your injuries would be fairly severe.
However, for your friend, the device only caused mild pain and required only one surgery to remove it. She’s had a full recovery and never had any infections.
You look online, and you read about one person who had the device implanted during surgery and died due to the complications it caused.
Now, your friend’s injuries were fairly mild. Your injuries were severe. The person you read about online died unexpectedly. You all received the same device, but your injuries were different in terms of their severity.
If your case was organized as a class action lawsuit, one attorney would group everyone’s cases together and you, your friend, and the deceased patient’s family would all receive the same amount of money in damages. That doesn’t seem fair, does it?
If your case was organized as a mass tort, however, you, your friend, and the deceased patient’s family could all keep your individual lawsuits with your individual attorneys. Your attorneys could share information with one another to make sure you and other affected patients received the best representation possible. Your settlement would better reflect the severity of the injuries you suffered: your friend would get a smaller amount, you would receive a larger amount, and the family of the deceased patient would receive an even larger amount due to the severity of their loss.
Speeding up the Legal Process
The United States court system does not have the time to take one corporation to trial thousands of times for each individual person who sues them. Mass torts and class action lawsuits hold corporations accountable without bogging down the legal system.
Because mass torts allow plaintiffs to keep their individual cases, they typically take longer than class action lawsuits. However, as noted before, the settlements awarded in mass torts tend to better address the damages of individual plaintiffs than class action lawsuits. Even if juries award millions of dollars in class action lawsuits, the award typically has to be divided equally among millions of people, resulting in individuals receiving just a couple of bucks each.
Class action lawsuits are important and useful in certain cases, however. They are appropriate for cases involving misleading labels, illegal billing practices, and other unfair business tactics. Although they may not result in large settlements for individuals, they can create real, positive change in businesses that better protects current and future consumers.
Should You be in a Mass Tort or a Class Action Lawsuit?
If you have suffered injuries or loss due to a company’s negligence, an attorney can help you determine if your claim is better suited for a mass tort or a class action lawsuit.
Hensley Legal Group handles personal injury and mass tort claims. Call today for a free case review, or contact us online.