If you were injured by a defective product or negligent medical care, it might not take long to find out that you weren’t the only victim. If a defective product is mass-produced, for example, there will most likely be multiple injuries before the item is taken off the market or recalled.
It can be exhausting (and unnecessary) for courts around the country or world to hear the same case over and over again, so sometimes, personal injury cases are combined into a “mass tort.”
Understanding What Mass Torts Are and How They Work
What Makes a Personal Injury Case a “Mass Tort?”
Mass torts are defined by three characteristics:
- A high number of participants making a claim against the same defective product/defendant
- Claims brought up by participants are similar, but not exactly the same
- Claims are interdependent from each other
What Is the Difference Between a “Mass Tort” and a “Class Action” Lawsuit?
These two lawsuits are very similar, but often confused. Here are the basics:
- Both involve a large group of plaintiffs who want to file a claim against one defendant who has injured all of the plaintiffs.
- Class action lawsuits contain claims that are more identical than mass tort lawsuits.
- Victims are typically more spread out geographically in mass tort cases.
- Each plaintiff is heard separately in a mass tort lawsuit, but class action lawsuits are usually settled with one case and for the most part, the same compensation is given to all plaintiffs.
- The evidence of a mass tort lawsuit, including an investigation against the defendant and other preparation, can be transferred from lawsuit to lawsuit, so these cases go quicker than a normal personal injury trial.
- In a mass tort lawsuit, every case is separate, so the compensation given to individual plaintiffs in a mass tort lawsuit is usually higher.
What are Examples of Mass Tort Lawsuits?
There are a few different types of mass tort lawsuits that lawyers see frequently, including:
- Product Liability Lawsuits: Sometimes, a product is produced and sold to consumers before it is deemed safe. Suddenly, reports of fires or injuries from the product are all over the news. Victims may have different injuries (for example, exploding batteries could cause serious burns or property damage), but a common cause and responsible party.
- Pharmaceutical Claims: A defective product may be a prescription drug that is meant to relieve symptoms, not cause further illness or injury. If a drug that wasn’t properly tested for side effects, or if known side effects were not properly listed in a warning, and it negatively affects large groups of people, victims may come forward in a mass tort lawsuit.
- Environmental Disasters: Not all environmental disasters are caused by nature. An oil spill and the release of toxic chemicals in the air are both examples of environmental disasters that may be caused by a corporation. Environmental disasters can have tragic effects on the health of employees or residents in the area where the disaster occurred. These victims may be able to file a mass tort.
- Injuries after a Large Accident: These cases are similar to environmental disasters, but can involve anything from faulty technology to negligent drivers. A negligent pilot or train conductor, for example, may cause a public transportation accident that causes injuries to dozens of people.
- Employee Discrimination: A pattern of discrimination practiced by a business or other type of entity may result in the loss of income of many different people. The victims may take this discrimination to court.
Here are some specific examples of recent mass tort lawsuits that you may have heard about:
- Transvaginal mesh
- IVC Filters
- Takata Airbags
- Johnson & Johnson talcum powder
How Long Do You Have to File in a Mass Tort Lawsuit?
The rules of mass torts follow the rules of other personal injury lawsuits. The statute of limitations, or the time that you have after an accident to file a claim, is usually four years. There are exceptions, however, for specific types of injuries.
How Do You Join a Mass Tort Lawsuit?
So you’ve seen the news about a product or entity that has caused a large number of people to suffer. Big lawsuits are rolling in as your medical bills are racking up from an accident caused by that very same product/entity. You think that it’s time to also file a claim. So what’s next?
Reach out to a South Florida lawyer who has experience handling mass torts and class action litigation. Not every personal injury lawyer can hop onto a mass tort case. During your initial consultation, the lawyer can give you options for receiving compensation, and let you know if a mass tort lawsuit is already going on against the defendant in your case.
About the Author:
Jeffrey Braxton is a trial lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who has devoted his career to the practice of personal injury law. As lead trial attorney for The South Florida Injury Law Firm, Jeff has litigated thousands of cases and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an exclusive group of attorneys who have resolved cases in excess of one million dollars.