May 23, 2024

Mass Torts Uncovered: What You Need to Know

Mass Torts Uncovered: What You Need to Know - group of pieces symbolizing mass tort

A mass tort is a legal action involving numerous plaintiffs against one or a few defendants in state or federal court. Unlike a class action lawsuit, where plaintiffs are treated as a single entity, a mass tort treats each plaintiff as an individual, recognizing the unique damages and circumstances each one faces. 

Mass torts are typically associated with cases involving defective products, pharmaceuticals, environmental disasters, or widespread corporate misconduct.

At Morgan & Morgan, our mass tort attorneys help clients determine whether they should file an individual lawsuit or join a mass tort lawsuit that covers the same legal issues. We stay on top of the developments of every mass tort lawsuit to help our clients decide if the time is right to join other plaintiffs. To learn more about filing or joining a mass tort lawsuit, get a free case evaluation today.


What Are the Key Characteristics of a Mass Tort Case?

Let’s break down what we discussed above into key qualifiers. To be a mass tort, a case must have:

Numerous Plaintiffs

A mass tort involves a large group of individuals who have been similarly harmed by the same defendant or defendants. Each plaintiff files their own lawsuit, but the cases are consolidated to streamline the process.


Common Defendant(s)

The plaintiffs in a mass tort are typically suing the same defendant(s). These defendants are usually large corporations, manufacturers, or other entities responsible for the widespread harm.


Individual Claims

Unlike class actions, mass torts allow for individual claims. This means each plaintiff’s case is treated separately, with specific attention to their unique injuries and circumstances.


Consolidation for Efficiency

To manage the large number of similar cases, mass torts are often consolidated into a single court for pretrial proceedings. This helps to streamline the discovery process and reduce duplicative efforts.


Varied Damages

The damages awarded in mass tort cases can vary significantly from one plaintiff to another. Each plaintiff’s compensation is based on their specific injuries, losses, and circumstances.


What Are Some Types of Mass Tort Cases?

Mass torts can arise in various contexts, but some of the most common types include:


Defective Products

Cases involving defective products, such as faulty medical devices, malfunctioning vehicles, or unsafe consumer goods, can lead to mass tort actions. Examples include the litigation over defective hip implants or faulty automobile parts.


Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices

Mass torts are frequently filed against pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. These cases often involve drugs or devices that cause serious side effects or injuries to a large number of people. Examples include litigation over harmful drugs like Vioxx or defective medical devices like transvaginal mesh.


Environmental Disasters

Environmental mass torts arise from incidents like oil spills, chemical leaks, or other environmental catastrophes that harm large groups of people. An example is the litigation following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


Consumer Fraud

Mass torts can also involve cases of widespread consumer fraud or deceptive business practices. This includes instances where companies engage in misleading advertising or other fraudulent activities that impact numerous consumers.


What Are the Differences Between Mass Torts and Class Action Lawsuits?

While mass torts and class actions both involve multiple plaintiffs, there are key differences between the two.

In a class action, all plaintiffs are treated as a single group with one collective claim. In a mass tort, each plaintiff has an individual claim, and their cases are handled separately but consolidated for efficiency.

Class actions are represented by a few class representatives who stand in for the entire group, whereas in mass torts, each plaintiff typically has their own attorney, although the cases are coordinated.

In class actions, any settlement or award is divided among all members of the class, often equally. In mass torts, damages are individualized, reflecting the unique harm each plaintiff has suffered.

Class actions also require class certification by the court, which involves meeting specific legal criteria. Mass torts do not require this certification process, making them more flexible in some respects.

Morgan & Morgan handles both kinds of such cases, and to determine which category your case may fall into, you can get free advice from our legal team with a free case evaluation.


What Is the Process of a Mass Tort Case?

Each case may have variables specific to that case, but there is a general process to a mass tort case. Here’s how Morgan & Morgan may proceed with a mass tort case.

Firstly, potential plaintiffs may undergo a case evaluation to determine if they have a valid claim. If so, their individual lawsuits are filed.

To handle a large number of cases, mass torts are often consolidated into a single court under a process called Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). This consolidation is for pretrial proceedings and discovery, which helps to streamline the process and reduce redundancies.

Next would generally come the discovery phase. During the discovery phase, both sides gather evidence, take depositions, and build their cases. In an MDL, this process is coordinated to avoid duplicative efforts and inconsistent rulings.

To help predict the outcome of the larger group of cases, a few representative cases, known as bellwether trials, are selected to go to trial first. The outcomes of these trials can help guide settlement negotiations for the remaining cases.

Then, the case may be settled or go to trial. Many mass tort cases are resolved through settlements, where the defendant agrees to compensate the plaintiffs without going to trial. If a settlement cannot be reached, individual cases may proceed to trial.


What Is the Benefit of a Mass Tort?

Mass tort litigation can be a powerful legal tool that provides significant benefits for plaintiffs who have been harmed by the same defendant(s) under similar circumstances. This type of legal action consolidates individual lawsuits to improve efficiency, leverage collective strength, and ensure consistent rulings.

Access to Justice for Individual Plaintiffs

One of the most important benefits of mass tort litigation is that it provides individuals with access to justice, especially those who might not have the resources to pursue legal action independently.

  • Lower Financial Barriers: Legal expenses can be prohibitively high. Mass torts allow plaintiffs to share the costs of litigation, making it more affordable for individuals to seek compensation.
  • Contingency Fee Basis: Morgan & Morgan operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning plaintiffs do not pay attorney’s fees unless they win the case. This reduces the financial risk for plaintiffs.

Efficiency in the Legal Process

Mass torts streamline the legal process by consolidating many similar individual cases. This efficiency benefits both plaintiffs and the judicial system.

  • Consolidated Proceedings: Cases are often consolidated in a single court for pretrial proceedings, which helps avoid duplication of efforts and speeds up the discovery process.
  • Shared Resources: Plaintiffs can share evidence, expert witnesses, and legal strategies, reducing the time and costs associated with building a case.

Strength in Numbers

When plaintiffs join together in a mass tort, they collectively possess more leverage against large corporations or other powerful defendants.

  • Increased Bargaining Power: A larger group of plaintiffs can exert more pressure on defendants, which can lead to more favorable settlement terms.
  • Enhanced Legal Representation: Law firms specializing in mass torts typically have extensive resources and experience, providing plaintiffs with strong legal representation.

Consistency and Fairness in Rulings

Mass torts help ensure consistent legal rulings and settlements across similar cases, which can lead to fairer outcomes for plaintiffs.

  • Uniform Decisions: By having one judge oversee pretrial proceedings, mass torts help ensure that legal decisions are consistent across all cases, reducing the risk of disparate rulings.
  • Predictable Outcomes: Bellwether trials (representative cases) help both sides gauge the likely outcomes of other cases, facilitating more predictable and equitable settlements.

Individualized Attention to Claims

Unlike class actions, mass torts treat each plaintiff's case individually. This means that each plaintiff's unique circumstances and damages are considered.

  • Tailored Compensation: Plaintiffs receive compensation based on their specific injuries and losses, rather than a one-size-fits-all settlement.
  • Personalized Legal Strategy: Each plaintiff’s case is handled separately, allowing for a more personalized legal approach that addresses the unique aspects of their situation.

Public Awareness and Corporate Accountability

Mass tort litigation often brings widespread attention to corporate wrongdoing, leading to greater public awareness and corporate accountability.

  • Highlighting Issues: High-profile mass tort cases can draw public and media attention to dangerous products, environmental hazards, or corporate misconduct, prompting regulatory changes and increased safety measures.
  • Deterrent Effect: Successful mass torts can deter companies from engaging in negligent or harmful behavior in the future, as they face substantial financial and reputational consequences.

Expertise and Resources of Specialized Law Firms

Law firms that handle mass tort cases, such as Morgan & Morgan, typically have specialized expertise and resources that benefit plaintiffs.

  • Experienced Attorneys: Morgan & Morgan’s attorneys with extensive experience in mass tort litigation, providing plaintiffs with knowledgeable and skilled representation.
  • Resource Allocation: Large firms can allocate significant resources to complex cases, including hiring expert witnesses, conducting comprehensive investigations, and utilizing advanced technology for case management.

Opportunity for Comprehensive Settlements

Mass torts often result in substantial settlements that provide comprehensive compensation for plaintiffs.

  • Broad Compensation: Settlements can cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages, providing comprehensive financial relief for plaintiffs.
  • Structured Settlements: In some cases, settlements may be structured to provide long-term financial support for plaintiffs, addressing ongoing medical needs or financial losses.

Morgan & Morgan Can Help

Even as a co-plaintiff, hiring one of the mass tort attorneys at Morgan and Morgan ensures the lead plaintiff makes favorable decisions for the co-plaintiffs. Your lawyer might help the lead plaintiff’s lawyers acquire the type of medical evidence that convinces the judge hearing your case to award a significant amount in monetary damages.

If you want to know more, contact us today. Hiring one of our attorneys is easy, and you can take your first step with a free case evaluation with no obligation.