Mass Torts vs. Class Actions

mass torts vs. class actions

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and automobiles have a lot in common. They both have four wheels, steering mechanisms, and engines. However, we use these vehicles very differently. In the legal world, some types of cases seem similar but are employed as differently as ATVs and cars. For example, you will see some significant differences when considering mass torts vs. class actions.

The Players in Basic Litigation

Generally, a lawsuit has at least two parties:  a plaintiff (that files the lawsuit) and the defendant (that responds to the lawsuit). In some cases, you will see more than one plaintiff and more than one defendant. Occasionally, you might see the following parties:

  • Cross-complainants
  • Cross-defendants
  • Petitioners (a name used instead of plaintiffs)
  • Third-party defendants

The parties may vary depending on the type of case that was filed or by applicable state laws. Mass torts and class actions both have plaintiffs and defendants, but their cases proceed differently.

A plaintiff or petitioner files a legal document called a complaint or a petition to get a lawsuit started. Then, the defendant files an answer or response. Litigation then goes through various stages, again, depending on the type of case. Along the way, you may interact with:

  • Judges, clerks, and courtroom staff;
  • Court reporters;
  • Fact witnesses and expert witnesses; and
  • Other attorneys.

However, some cases are handled very differently. For example, comparing mass torts vs. class actions reveals significant disparities.

Considering Mass Torts vs. Class Actions

Similarities aside, these two categories of litigation differ in the following ways:

  • A mass tort case is based on a single wrong that injured or damaged many victims. Mass torts often involve pharmaceuticals, environmental hazards, or consumer products.

For example, the makers of e-cigarettes have been sued by many victims and their families. Several defendants committed the single wrong, but primarily a company named JUUL. This mass tort probably would be considered a consumer product tort as users of e-cigarettes have claimed that e-cigarette companies lied about their products and sold contaminated products. In a mass tort case like this, each victim might have his or her own trial or settlement.

  • In class actions, on the other hand, one or more people serve as plaintiffs representing the “class.” The class consists of people who have been damaged by the defendant or defendants. Typically, there’s one trial in a class action. The class splits the award or settlement funds.

One example of a class action case is the 2008 GM Instrument Cluster settlement. The class consisted of owners of GM vehicles with defective speedometers. Several owners sued GM, and a federal judge then certified the lawsuit as a class action. The settlement was distributed among the class based on several criteria.

It can be challenging to determine whether a claim is part of a mass tort vs. a class action or whether the case stands alone. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you decide how to handle your case.

Should You Be Part of a Mass Tort or Class Action?

You may never know. That is unless you speak with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

At the Dailey Law Firm, P.C., our team of skilled lawyers and professionals provide the high-quality legal services you need. Call us at 844-342-5353 to set up a free consultation or use the Contact Form on our website. It won’t cost you a penny to chat with us.

We represent clients throughout the entire United States. You can reach us online or visit one of our offices in Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL; or Valparaiso, IN.

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