At any given time, there are a variety of mass torts pending in US courts. A mass tort is essentially a personal injury lawsuit involving hundreds to thousands, to tens-of-thousands¾to in some cases¾hundreds-of-thousands of claimants (e.g., the 3M earplug mass tort), against a single or few defendants. The defendant(s) produced a drug or consumer product or offered a service that harmed many individuals and in a mass tort, those many injured individuals join together to sue the defendant(s) for damages.
While similar, mass torts are not class actions. If you think you have a potential class action, contact us via our general contact form. If, however, there is a specific drug or product that injured you and for which there is an already existing mass tort, please fill out our contact form specific to that product or drug to see if we can help you join the mass tort against the manufacturer of that drug or product.
What are mass torts and how are they different than class actions?
Mass torts, simply put, are personal injury actions involving many claimants/plaintiffs against a common wrongdoer. Mass torts are a type of aggregate litigation, the most common of which historically has been the class action. Class actions can and have been used to deal with a wide variety of legal issues; for example, the landmark school desegregation case which resulted in the Brown v. Board of Education decision (347 U.S. 483 (1954)) was brought as a class action. In recent decades, however, this ancient process appeared to be the obvious way to deal with a relatively new phenomenon, the mass tort. Traditionally, torts arose from idiosyncratic events where a single injured plaintiff sues a defendant alleged to have wrongfully caused the injury. Mass torts, however, arise when one product is allegedly the cause of injuries to large numbers of people, or one catastrophic event (such as a chemical leak) causes widespread harm.
At first glance, use of class actions to resolve disputes where dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people allege the same event or product caused similar injuries to all of them seems to be an ideal procedure. However, in the late 1990s it appeared the class action would not be useful in resolving mass torts, because despite each individual claim sharing many common issues of fact and law, there were also significant differences between claims. For example, one set of mass torts were the claims arising from asbestos exposure, in particular among those exposed in the workplace in such environments as shipyards. In the 1990s, thousands of such disparate asbestos claims were assigned as a group to one federal judge, but they were not formally aggregated in any way. Lawyers who had formed an informal committee for all the plaintiffs south to have a class certified for the sole purpose of approving a global settlement of all the plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court, however, held this class was impermissible because common issues did not predominate. The Court noted that the members of the class were exposed to different types of asbestos-containing products, in different ways, over different periods, and for different amounts of time, and the harms they suffered varied widely.
The limitations on class action lawsuits for mass torts led to the massive growth in the collective action known as Multi-District Litigation (“MDL”), established in 28 U.S.C. § 1407. This procedure aggregates cases with similar claims, most obviously mass tort claims, in one proceeding for pretrial matters, from discovery up to and through dispositive motions, but contemplates individual trials for each claimant. Most of the claims joined in MDL, however, are settled, and there are no trials. Still, within these MDLs, class action procedures often are brought back into play, particular the creation of settlement classes. One large MDL can proceed through discovery, and perhaps be split into several different settlement classes in recognition of the difference between some of the claims. When time comes to present the settlement that the lead counsel in the MDL proceeding have been negotiating, the judge presiding over that MDL can approve various classes solely for the purpose of allowing the litigants to approve the settlement or to opt out of the class and proceed on their own to trial.
Today, MDLs, often using elements of a class action such as certifying settlement classes, dominate the federal courts’ docket. The total number of MDL actions pending as of May 16, 2022 was 185, but each contains hundreds or, in some cases, thousands, of individual constituent actions. In all, the number of cases on the federal docket that are currently joined into an MDL is 428,414. Meanwhile, the total number of active cases, civil and criminal, pending in the federal district courts as of the date of official records being complied in 2021 was only 711,778, so well over half the total cases in the federal system are part of an MDL. The issues range from patent to antitrust to securities claims, but the majority are mass torts. As our society grows more interconnected and dependent on complex technology, such forms of aggregate litigation are likely to continue to thrive and increase.
If you have been injured by any of the drugs or products listed on this webpage, contact us at Whistleblowers International to see if you qualify to join a mass tort against the manufacturer of the drug or product that injured you.
Mass tort litigation can pose unique challenges in the courtroom that aren’t typically found in other areas of civil law.
To understand why, it’s worth acknowledging that the need for this form of civil law did not become prominent until the 1980s, when a rise in mass marketing exposed Americans to a broader range of potentially defective or harmful products. This facilitated an increase in plaintiff law firms to assist with the filing of mass tort legal claims.
Today, the most impactful component of mass tort litigation is the sheer volume of mass tort claims. The frequency of mass tort cases has posed various obstacles for involved parties. Here are some key challenges of mass tort cases:
- They are time-consuming. Lawsuits can sometimes take several years to resolve. The specific circumstances of each plaintiff’s injuries (not to mention the fact that these injuries typically develop over long periods of time) can often lengthen the duration of the case. Holding separate trials for each plaintiff also plays a role in delaying legal proceedings.
- They are complex by nature. Each plaintiff brings their own unique set of claims, injuries, and expectations to the table. As you can imagine, the research required to build a mass tort case is quite extensive. Acquiring the necessary records for each plaintiff is no small feat, especially considering how quickly the work will multiply if/when additional plaintiffs come forward.
- Causation for plaintiff injuries is difficult to prove. Mass tort cases leave considerable room for ambiguities. It can take a long time for injuries to develop as a result of a harmful product or substance. Poring over years or even decades of corporate data, medical records, and a wealth of other information is a massive undertaking, and there is never a guarantee that the court will consider the findings to be proficient evidence.
- Consistency is challenging due to the high volume of mass tort claims and multiple plaintiffs. Our justice system is designed to uphold the same core principles in all areas of its framework. No matter the volume of mass tort claims, the court is responsible for upholding all interdependent cases to the same standards, rulings, and reasonings in this expansive and often interdependent network of mass tort cases.
We know that filing a mass tort claim can be a drain on your time and emotional health. It’s crucial to have a seasoned mass tort litigator on your side to help earn the compensation you deserve. Call (800) 689-8552 to speak with one of our knowledgeable mass tort attorneys today.
Why Should You Hire a Mass Tort Lawyer?
Our justice system is designed to protect the wellbeing of the people. At Whistleblowers International, we consider it our personal responsibility to ensure manufacturers are held accountable for defective or harmful products.
An experienced mass tort litigation attorney can help protect your rights and health as a consumer, and even prevent others from being harmed in similar circumstances. As you know, mass tort lawsuits are time-consuming and complex. It’s important to find a capable mass tort lawyer to assist with:
- Acquiring the appropriate evidence to build the strongest case possible.
- Implementing the best legal approach to earn the maximum financial compensation available to you.
- Proving causation between your injuries and the product in question.
- Overseeing court deadlines, paperwork, and recordkeeping throughout your case.
- Acting as an intermediary between you and related parties, such as medical specialists or other plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit.
Whistleblowers International Can Help Protect Your Rights
If you suspect you’ve been wronged by a company’s unethical behavior or a defective product, it’s important that you contact us as soon as possible.
Our mass tort lawyers will be happy to review your case and maintain your privacy as we assist you in navigating the legal intricacies of mass tort litigation. Our in-depth method for research and case development at Whistleblowers International is unparalleled. We possess the integrity and knowledge to effectively advocate on your behalf, and our team is here to fight tirelessly for you to receive the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Contact us to schedule your case evaluation with our experienced mass tort ligation attorneys today.
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