What is a Mass Tort?

hands grabbing scale

A “tort” is considered a civil wrong—as opposed to a criminal offense—committed by one person or entity which results in loss or harm to someone else. The person who commits the tort is liable for the harm suffered by the victim. If the victim sues, he or she becomes a plaintiff, while the party being sued is the defendant. The main purpose of the lawsuit is to recover damages or monetary compensation for the plaintiff’s injury.

On the other hand, a “mass tort” is a single tort that results in injury to many victims, involving several plaintiffs suing one defendant who was negligent. In most mass tort cases, the plaintiffs must be filing lawsuits based on harms caused by a single common product.

Two of the most common types of mass tort claims include:

  • Consumer product claims – Seeking compensation caused by a dangerous and/or defective product.
  • Pharmaceutical claims – Medical products, such as prescribed and over-the-counter drugs, that are dangerous or fatal.

When a large group of plaintiffs wants to file a single lawsuit against a common defendant, the plaintiffs’ attorney must request permission from the court to file a “mass tort action.”

The court will consider the following, among other things, when determining whether or not to provide permission:

  • If a large group of plaintiffs is involved in the case
  • If the plaintiffs are located near to or far from one another
  • If the injuries suffered by the various plaintiffs are similar
  • If the claims made the plaintiffs are related with the common cause, such as a defective product

If the court decides that the proposed case is considered a proper mass tort action, the case will be assigned to a judge. The judge may order that notice of the lawsuit be circulated through the media and published in newspapers in order for others who have been harmed by the same product to join the lawsuit if they would like to.

Keep in mind, a mass tort action is not the same as a class action lawsuit. In a mass tort action, each plaintiff's claim is evaluated individually; the outcome of a plaintiff's individual case is dependent upon the extent of injuries suffered and many other factors. In a class action lawsuit, the numerous claims filed are typically not evaluated individually, and there may be only one trial to produce a common outcome for the group of plaintiffs.

At Metzger Wickersham, we are well equipped to handle cases involving civil action from numerous plaintiffs against a corporate defendant. When you trust your mass tort to our Harrisburg lawyers, you can be confident knowing we have the support staff and resources necessary to craft a strong, compelling case on your behalf.

Contact us and request a free consultation today.

When in the best interest of the client, mass tort claims may be referred to other law firms.

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