Mass tort occurs when a large number of plaintiffs file a claim against one or several corporations. The claim occurs when it is believed a certain defective drug, medical device or other product caused harm to a wide population.
These types of cases often happen as a result of an action taken by a responsible party. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration implements a recall; the FDA recalls a prescription drug or issues a warning; or a manufacturer (vehicle, toy or other) issues a recall. When these recalls or warnings happen, many individuals or families may realize they were negatively affected. A mass tort is the result once it is determined there’s a connection between a recall or warning and a large amount of injuries.
A class action is a type of mass tort. Typically, class actions involve plaintiffs who experienced a similar type of injury due to a defective product or drug. However, only a limited amount of plaintiffs get to present their case in court. The court’s decision is applied to everyone involved in the class action. This includes compensation or rewards for damages being split up among the plaintiffs.
Another type of mass tort is an MDL, or multi-district litigation. This means that a lawyer can represent multiple plaintiffs. The main difference is that plaintiffs will be eligible to receive proper compensation based on their unique injuries, rather than the general effect on a large group of plaintiffs as in a class action. An individual event or defective product, device or drug can cause a variety of negative effects, so one plaintiff may be entitled to a different amount or type of compensation and damages than another plaintiff.
Mass torts are often complex and lengthy cases as thorough investigations are required. An investigation can consist of examination of the industry, company, corporation or manufacturer responsible for what is claimed to be a defective product, medical device or drug. In addition to analyzing the role of the potentially responsible party, each case in a mass tort needs to be taken seriously. They’ll be evaluated to determine if the reported injury or harm is similar to other incidents being reported as they relate to the defective product or drug. These investigations can involve numerous lawyers and/or insurance companies. Although it’s tough to estimate the time frame on a mass tort case being presented, it’s not unusual for it take months or years.