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What is the Difference Between Mass Torts and Class Action Lawsuits?

Many are familiar with class action lawsuits, but mass tort cases are less widely known. Both kinds of cases have commonalities and are sometimes confused for each other, but there are also distinct differences in the way in which they are handled in court. Let’s take a closer look at these cases and what separates them: 

What Do They Have in Common?

A large percentage of accident claims and personal injury lawsuits consist of one individual (plaintiff) who is seeking to recover compensation from a liable party (defendant). The defendant can be another individual or an entity (business, insurance company, government entity, etc.). However, in both class action and mass tort cases, there are a large number of plaintiffs who have similar grievances with the same defendant. It may help to picture “standard” claims as duels, whereas mass torts and class actions are more like an angry mob chasing the same person. 

Another aspect that they share in common is that in both cases, all claims are merged into a single action instead of having a large number of separate suits. This is done with efficiency in mind, as it significantly reduces the number of proceedings that arise whenever numerous people have claims against the same defendant. 

What is the Difference Between Them? 

The number one difference between class actions and mass torts is how the courts treat the group of claimants. 

Oftentimes, mass tort cases involve a very distinct group of claimants, sometimes from the same location or area. As such, mass tort cases usually involve less claimants overall than class actions do. Even though mass torts are considered a single action, each plaintiff is treated individually, meaning that they must prove their own claim. 

Conversely, class actions usually feature a larger number of overall claimants. They are also handled differently in the sense that the collection of plaintiffs is considered a “class,” and one individual is then chosen to represent the entire class. For the duration of the suit, this representative stands in for the entire class of claimants. 

Comparing Criteria for Each 

Class Actions 

Class action lawsuits are extremely regulated, with specific elements and criteria that claimants must meet. All of the claimants in a class must be made aware of the suit and have the choice to either opt in or find counsel elsewhere. Before the class action can be formally established, a representative must be appointed to represent the class, as mentioned above. 

Here are the criteria for establishing a class action suit, as set by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: 

  • The class of plaintiffs is so large that joinder of all claimants is impossible; 
  • The plaintiffs have commonalities with regards to questions of law or fact; 
  • The claims of the individual plaintiffs are typical of the claims for the entire class;
  • The representative of the class will work to fairly represent the interests of the class as a whole; 

Mass Torts 

Mass torts are often utilized when the group of plaintiffs doesn’t quite fit into the strict criteria needed for a class action. In other words, mass torts are a good option for when the claimants have similar claims but different circumstances. Although mass torts are less rigid in structure than class actions, there is more onus on the individual plaintiffs to prove their own case, so it is extremely important to seek skilled representation if you wish to participate in a mass tort. 

The most common type of mass tort claims arise when a large number of people were harmed by defective or dangerous products or drugs. In such a case, the group of plaintiffs will have similar claims against the same defendant, but they will experience a wide array of different reactions to the drug or product in question. As such, it is more practical to form a mass tort claim than to try and squeeze everyone into the rigid criteria of a class action. 

Need Help Recovering Compensation? Contact Van Law Firm Today 

Accident claims can be complicated, especially when there are a large number of claimants involved. Don’t risk losing valuable compensation–instead, call the trusted mass tort attorneys from Van Law Firm today. We strive to provide 5-star service, and with over $50 million recovered thus far, it’s easy to see that excellence is our standard. Call our office nearest you today to schedule a risk-free, confidential consultation.