A mass tort and a class action suit are two types of personal injury claims that involve large groups of plaintiffs who have substantially similar claims against the same defendant. But a mass tort and a class action suit are also quite different, both in terms of court procedure and in what cases are appropriate for each.
What Is a Mass Tort?
A tort generally refers to an act or omission by one party or parties that causes another to be harmed or injured, often because of negligence. A mass tort groups many individual lawsuits alleging harm or injury together, because each suit involves common questions of fact.
The individual plaintiffs, however, are treated separately. Plaintiffs in a mass tort make substantively the same allegations, such as claiming injury from the same defendant in the same way, but the severity of specific manifestations, for example, may be different among the plaintiffs.
Mass torts are often used when plaintiffs have brought lawsuits for damages against pharmaceutical or medical device companies for injuries or recalls.
Mass torts often proceed as a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Federal system. MDLs are established by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). The consolidation of cases that occurs in an MDL places all the cases before a single judge in one court. The intent is to bring more efficiency to the legal process and reduce a drain on court resources, including the time and effort of all parties.
In an MDL, for example, a witness provides testimony one time that is used for all the cases in the mass tort, rather than testimony for every single case. The discovery process and judge’s rulings proceed similarly. The creation of an MDL causes the process to be more streamlined than each case proceeding individually would be.
What Is a Class Action?
A class action lawsuit also represents a number of plaintiffs who were allegedly injured or wronged by the same defendant in the same way. The plaintiffs are termed the “class.” In a class action, one complaint is filed for the class, and a class representative stands for all members of the class. In court, then, all the individual plaintiffs are in effect treated as a single plaintiff.
It should be noted that, while mass torts and class action lawsuits are distinct, they are not mutually exclusive. Some plaintiffs may choose to pursue individual claims under a mass tort, while others may decide to join a class action lawsuit for a similar issue.
Examples of Mass Tort Cases
A mass tort often involves individuals injured by dangerous drugs and medical devices. Attorneys at Wagstaff & Cartmell are representing plaintiffs, for example, in cases alleging that the drugs Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, Topamax and Depakote, when taken by women during pregnancy, cause their children to be born with a range of congenital birth defects.
Attorneys at Wagstaff & Cartmell are also representing plaintiffs in a mass tort medical device case involving DePuy hip implants. Plaintiffs allege that the implants, which are metal-on-metal, cause pieces of metal to fray in the body. The implants have caused patients receiving them to develop an array of serious symptoms, including difficulty walking and standing, tissue death, metalosis and pain.
Examples of Class Action Suits
A class action lawsuit can involve a variety of subject matters, including antitrust, securities, consumer and product liability actions.
Recently, for example,Wagstaff & Cartmell won a $10 million class action settlement in an environmental property damage case. The settlement was reached with an engineering company on behalf of a class consisting of landowners in Northwest Missouri. The class action alleged that a St. Joseph tannery, Prime Tanning, distributed tannery sludge containing hexavalent chromium produced from its tanning operations to landowners to use as fertilizer in four Missouri counties from 1983 through 2009.
Contact an Experienced Law Firm for Results
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Wagstaff & Cartmell conduct both mass tort and class action suits. In mass torts, our lawyers are often named to the plaintiffs’ leadership teams of the U.S.’s most extensive drug and medical device cases. Our leadership roles, including those in MDLs, stem from our past record of success, deep experience and excellent reputation in mass tort and product liability law.
In class actions, Wagstaff & Cartmell attorneys have recovered over $600 million, both locally and nationally. We have been part of the leadership group prosecuting significant class actions across the U.S. and have also successfully defended class actions.
Please contact Wagstaff & Cartmel to schedule a consultation or call (816) 701-1100 today to discuss a mass tort drug or medical device product liability case or class action issue. See here for a list of mass torts we are actively pursuing.