May 28, 2024

Morgan & Morgan Explains the Differences Between Class Action, Mass Tort, and Mass Arbitration

Morgan & Morgan Explains the Differences Between Class Action, Mass Tort, and Mass Arbitration - group legal action concept

Class actions, mass torts, and mass arbitrations are all legal terms that describe a form of action that you can take against a person or an entity that can aid in your fight to recover compensation for any damages you may have incurred due to an accident, a defective product, wage theft, environmental causes, medical negligence, and more. But when it comes to joining a class action, mass tort, or mass arbitration, what does it all mean, and how do you know which one best suits your needs? Below, we are breaking down the differences between all three and helping you determine which may be best for your legal needs.


What is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action, also known as a class action lawsuit or class suit, is a form of a lawsuit that can be brought in state or federal court and is only allowed in civil cases where plaintiffs seek monetary remedies. Class suits are typically filed against a defendant on behalf of a large group of plaintiffs. The plaintiffs in the case must have all suffered from the same or similar damages which the defendant is allegedly liable for causing. In a class action lawsuit, one or more of the named plaintiffs will represent a large group of affected individuals. 

The named plaintiffs will work alongside the attorney assigned to their case as they will be actively involved in the legal proceedings and will work to help present evidence to the court presiding over the claim. Alternatively, the plaintiffs also have the option to opt out of a class suit and are able to pursue their own cases for any misdeeds committed against them. However, depending on the case, plaintiffs may have a higher chance of recovering compensation after they join a class action lawsuit.

In many cases, a defendant will settle after a class suit is filed, offering some legal remedy that should be made available to all class members. If the case proceeds to court instead of settling, the court will make the final decision on the outcome of the case, which will apply to all class members.


What is Mass Tort?

A mass tort lawsuit tends to involve hundreds or even thousands of plaintiffs from the same geographical area who have been harmed by the negligence or wrongful acts of others. A mass tort allows the plaintiffs to pursue a civil claim to recover compensation for their damages or, in some cases, an injunction. While most mass tort cases are brought due to an act of negligence or misconduct, unlike a class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs in a mass tort case must have more in common than simply sharing the same defendants. 

In order for a mass tort case to be considered valid, the injuries the plaintiffs sustained must have been caused by the same harmful actions linked to the defendants. Examples include but are not limited to defective medical devices, chemical spills, and defective airbag inflators. Mass torts typically are resolved through a financial settlement; however, should a plaintiff not agree with the award settled, they have the right to refuse the settlement offered.


Class Action Vs. Mass Tort

Although many believe mass torts and class action lawsuits are interchangeable, they are not the same thing. The name “mass tort” refers to the substantive law governing large aggregations of claimants, while “class action” refers to the process of producing aggregate claims. One of the main differences between the two forms of lawsuits surrounds the level of control a plaintiff has over the case. In a mass tort, the plaintiff is treated as an individual in the suit holding more weight over what they are eligible to recover for their damages. Whereas in a class action, the class members have little to no involvement in their case, and are legally bound to whatever settlement agreement is reached or whatever rewards a judge or jury decides.


What is Mass Arbitration?

The American Arbitration Association defines mass arbitration as arbitrations, typically 25 or more, coming into arbitration and making individual demands against the same respondents for the same claim. In a mass arbitration suit, each claim must be filed against or on behalf of the same party or related parties, and the representation for those parties must hail from the same law firm or law firms acting in coordination.

In recent years, mass arbitration has emerged as a popular alternative to class action lawsuits. Many companies have opt-in to the newer option to help keep them out of court. Mass arbitrations allow companies to solve disputes with their consumers in a timely manner and ultimately save money. Some have even begun including arbitration clauses in contracts with consumers.


Class Action Vs. Mass Arbitration

The main difference between mass arbitration and class action is when an individual files or joins in a mass arbitration, they must all separately file demands for arbitration, as compared to a class action where the plaintiffs filing or joining the case are lumped together. Those who join a mass arbitration are each named individually and are assigned to a separate impartial third party who will ultimately decide the merits of the case before them. Unlike a class action lawsuit, when compensation for your damages is recovered in a mass arbitration, each plaintiff will be awarded a separate decision or award depending on their individual case.


So, Which One Works Best for Your Case?

In the end, speaking to an experienced attorney will help you decide which lawsuit is best for your claim. Working with an attorney will allow you to break down your case in order to fully understand the scope of your situation and which form of legal action best suits your needs. If you have suffered an injury or lost a loved one, we may be able to help you get the justice you deserve. For more information about how a Morgan & Morgan attorney may be able to help you, connect with us by completing our free, no-obligation case evaluation form today.