When you are harmed by someone who has also harmed other people in the same way, you could become part of a mass tort claim. This means that instead of you suing the party who harmed you, a civil lawsuit is filed on behalf of you and all the other individuals harmed by the party.
Common types of mass tort cases involve dangerous drugs or defective products. A single event that causes harm to many people all at once, such as a plane crash, can also be appropriate for a mass tort lawsuit.
Mass torts settlements v. class action settlements
A mass tort lawsuit is not the same as a class action lawsuit. Although a class action lawsuit is also the result of many people being harmed by the same party or through the same event, a class action lawsuit combines the claims into one case.
Mass tort lawsuits are not grouped into one case but are generally governed by multi-district litigation. This means transferring all cases to one judicial district to be heard by the same judge.
This is different than combining each claim into one case as in a class action lawsuit. With a mass tort lawsuit, your case remains its own individual case. It is just heard in the same court as the other cases with the same judge. This is typically done because it makes things simpler and more efficient.
Your case might be chosen as a “bellwether” case. This is a group of cases randomly chosen to go forward to trial. The purpose is to help both sides learn how much the claims may be worth if heard by a judge. If your case is chosen as a bellwether case, you will get an idea of how much compensation you can expect to receive.
If you are part of a class action lawsuit, you have little to no say about the type or amount of settlement you receive. You are a member of the class and are legally bound by the settlement agreement ultimately reached.
In a mass tort lawsuit, your settlement is structured based on the facts of your individual case. This means your case is analyzed based on the specific harm caused to you, rather than the entire party.
Mass tort settlements
Unlike a class action lawsuit, you can make your own decision on whether you want to accept the proposed compensation offered by the defendant. If no group settlement is reached, you can choose to have your own individual case tried or settled.
A mass tort settlement is not split between parties. Since your settlement is based on your own individual case, your settlement amount might be different than someone else’s.
Mass tort cases are usually not resolved quickly. The process can take a year or longer. However, if you have been injured or harmed by someone else’s negligence, going through the mass tort claim process is well worth the effort.