A tort is simply a formal word for a wrongful action that results in injury. The injuries can be physical injury, emotional distress, or financial loss or property damage. Whether the injury is intentional or an accident, the injured victim or victims are entitled to file a civil lawsuit (opposed to a criminal lawsuit), to reclaim compensation for the damages they suffered.
A mass tort is a single wrongful action that causes injury to many different people. The injured individuals can come together in a mass tort lawsuit. Together, they can seek justice for their various injuries against the same defendant, or multiple defendants, who harmed them.
The main difference between class-action lawsuits and mass tort lawsuits is how the court perceives the plaintiffs. In a class action, the court considers the plaintiffs as a single entity, so any compensation that is won is split evenly between the plaintiff group as a whole.
To be considered a “class,” plaintiffs must meet certain criteria. Among other criteria, this includes:
- The group of plaintiffs must be numerous.
- The plaintiffs all have a common issue in the lawsuit.
- Any representative must have a claim that is typical for the class.
Mass tort cases often happen when a potential class action lawsuit fails to meet the above criteria. In mass torts, the courts consider mass tort plaintiffs as individuals. So, each plaintiff receives separate compensations that reflect his or her own specific damages.
The way the courts perceive the plaintiffs, however, is not the only difference between mass tort and class-action lawsuits. Both types of lawsuits have benefits or drawbacks that can affect your compensation settlement or winnings.
Common reasons for mass tort lawsuits are:
- Injury due to dangerous drugs.
- Injury due to defective medical devices.
- Injury due to other defective products.
- Injury due to environmental damages, mass disasters and toxic conditions.
As a plaintiff in a mass tort, you will be treated as an individual, not part of the group. This means each victim must file their own claim. It also means how the defendant injured you must be proven separately from the other plaintiffs. For this reason, some plaintiffs may obtain compensation in a mass tort lawsuit, while others may not be awarded compensation.
One example of mass tort is a lawsuit against a drug manufacturer. If the drugs negatively affected plaintiffs in different ways, they cannot be treated as a common class.