Mass Torts

A tort is a civil claim in which one person commits an act that causes injury to another person. The plaintiff in a tort claim is the person who suffers due to the negligence of the defendant. The defendant is the person who committed the tort who is legally liable for damages if found guilty.

A mass tort is similar to a class action lawsuit, in which a single act committed by one person causes injury to another group of people. In a mass tort, many plaintiffs sue one defendant for a single action or single common product. When filing this type of claim, especially regarding pharmaceutical litigation, it is important to have an experienced attorney. Price Benowitz mass tort attorneys have knowledge of scientific and medical evidence allowing them to understand complex technical issues in order to provide effective mass tort cases.

Types of Torts

Torts can range from bodily injury to negligence to defamation, though these charges are all brought in civil rather than criminal court. The defendant is typically sued for monetary compensation to remedy damages sustained by the plaintiff.

The Federal Tort Claims Act of 1947 also allows torts to be brought against persons acting on behalf of the federal government that caused injury to a private party. Such cases typically involve instances of government negligence, regulatory agency activities, and professional malpractice.

Pursuing Cases

This type of claim constitutes a representative action, in which a few claimants named on the suit represent a “defined class” of plaintiffs. Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as well as 28 USCA § 1332 (d) (pdf) spell out the definitions of a class and requirements for certifying a class, as well as denote what specific claims can be brought in federal court as class actions.

It is important to note that a mass tort action is different from a class action in that mass tort actions involve individual complaints by plaintiffs in which they each receive their own separate trials, while a class action suit typically only receives one trial for all plaintiffs.

In order to pursue these cases, the lawyer of the group of plaintiffs must ask the court for permission to file a mass tort action. If asked, the court must weigh the number of plaintiffs involved, the geographical location of the plaintiffs, the similarity of the injuries sustained, and whether these injuries are associated with a common cause.

Typical examples of mass torts include consumer product or pharmaceutical claims, in which many plaintiffs seek remedy for injuries or death resulting from use of a dangerous product or a certain medication.

Settling or Going to Trial for Mass Torts

Companies or individuals being sued under mass tort law face unique detrimental circumstances. Since the damages involve a high number of individuals, the potential payout may be large and could have costly effects on business practices.

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), the goal of most class actions and/or mass tort attorneys is to settle the case before it goes to trial, typically even before the discovery period. Settling out of court helps lower the expenses of litigation which may reduce the overall payout.