Class Action and Mass Tort, What is the Difference?
Confused on what separates class action lawsuits from mass tort lawsuits? This blog looks at what differentiates these two so that you can be better equipped to navigate the legal world.
Class Action Lawsuits
A class action involves a lawsuit filed on behalf of a large number of people who share a common claim or similar set of circumstances. Often, it makes sense to consolidate potentially hundreds of small individual actions involving the same defendant(s) into one proceeding and one overall settlement to save time and money for all involved. For example, a class action could involve a large corporation accused of systematically overbilling its customers. In this instance, a class action settlement might involve returning all or a percentage of the over billed amounts to the customers.
A class action lawsuit has several characteristics and must meet certain criteria. All of these must be true for a class action to take place:
- The people in the class must be notified of the suit and given the choice to opt out or find their own private counsel
- Before filing a class action lawsuit, a motion must be filed in court for the Plaintiff to act on behalf of the group or class
- The individual compensation for the injury or circumstance must not be worth the time and money of hiring an attorney on an individual basis
- The plaintiff must show that his or her experience with the company or product is typical of the experiences of the others involved in the lawsuit
- The plaintiff must show that this type of lawsuit is the most ideal for holding the defendants accountable
- The evidence against the defendants must be similar across the board
Mass Tort Lawsuits
Mass tort lawsuits are different. Although mass tort claims also attempt to reduce the number of court cases in the system, they must be handled differently, covering a much broader range of claim types.
In most cases, mass tort claims are brought when consumers are injured on a large scale by defective drugs or defective products. Drugs and product defects can cause a wide range of problems for different individuals, so all cases rarely fit into a single class. Each individual case may have the same defendant in common, but the injuries and losses sustained might be very different.
What mass tort litigation allows is for one attorney or groups of attorneys to represent several injured parties in individual cases. The investigation conducted by one attorney can be shared among all cases. A nationwide network of lawyers can pool resources, information and ideas to ensure all individuals receive fair settlements for their injuries. Despite their shared resources, information and ideas, each individual case is settled based on their individual injury or loss and the appropriate damages. Mass tort lawsuits are typically more complicated than class action lawsuits because, given the multitude of claims that are brought during the suit, it can be difficult to determine settlements and compensation.