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What is the Difference Between a Mass Tort Claim and a Class Action Lawsuit?

Metzger Wickersham
What is the Difference Between a Mass Tort Claim and a Class Action Lawsuit?

When a negligent party — such as a pharmaceutical company, product manufacturer, or other corporation — harms multiple people, the injury victims may be able to pursue legal action. People who are members of a potential plaintiff group have options: Mass tort claims and class action lawsuits. Although both types of litigation are a way for multiple plaintiffs to pursue damages from a single entity, they involve different processes.

Mass Torts vs. Class Action Lawsuits: The Similarities

Mass tort claims and class action lawsuits are types of litigation that present cases of large groups of people. In the personal injury sphere, mass tort claims and class action lawsuits often relate to cases of defective products, dangerous drugs, toxic exposure, and other cases in which many people were harmed by the actions of a negligent party. Mass tort claims and class action lawsuits serve a similar purpose and often involve similar defendants, but the details of these claims are very different.

The Representation of Plaintiffs in a Mass Tort vs. a Class Action Case

One of the most significant differences between mass tort claims and class action lawsuits is in the way plaintiffs are represented.

In a mass tort claim, each plaintiff is treated as an individual within the group. Their individual cases will be presented during the case.

Conversely, class action lawsuits represent the plaintiffs as one large group. The plaintiffs’ claims are not presented individually; rather, the experiences of the plaintiffs are compiled to represent the damages incurred by the group as a whole.

For example, consider cases of dangerous drugs. If a dangerous drug case is handled as a mass tort claim, the side effects that each plaintiff experienced and the resulting damages will be presented. If a dangerous drug case is handled as a class action lawsuit, the legal team will look for common themes within the plaintiffs’ claims (i.e. if the majority of plaintiffs developed cancer because of dangerous drug use, that detail would be presented as the primary damages).

Who is Involved in Mass Torts and Class Action Lawsuits?

Class action lawsuits typically involve a higher number of people than mass tort claims. It is not uncommon for the plaintiffs in a class action suit to not know about the other plaintiffs, while mass torts more often involve groups who know each other or are otherwise connected.

Class action lawsuits often proceed independently — it is not necessary for all involved plaintiffs to actively participate in the claim for it to be resolved. An example of this is in cases of data breaches, when thousands of people are impacted and may be entitled to compensation for the damages. When these large-scale cases occur, a person who was affected may receive information about the case along with the choice to opt-out of the suit. Regardless of their choice, the case will proceed. These lawsuits prevent thousands of individual claims from entering courtrooms, as do mass tort cases.

The attorneys at Metzger Wickersham can evaluate the details of your case to determine who is liable and whether you are entitled to compensation. Contact us to discuss your case.

If you are interested in discussing your case with our attorneys, complete our contact form or call (888) 286-2850 to schedule a free consultation.
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