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What Is the Difference Between a Mass Tort and a Class-action Lawsuit?

Feb 18, 2022 | Personal Injury


Mass tort cases and class action lawsuits both involve groups of people who have suffered an injury due to negligence from a business or entity. But that’s where the similarities end between these types of court cases.

The way that these groups of plaintiffs are treated and how these cases work is very different between a mass tort case and a class-action lawsuit.

Mass tort cases tend to mirror a personal injury case where the injury victim pursues damages from the entity that was negligent or otherwise caused those injuries. However, class action lawsuits involve larger groups of people and each plaintiff has little input into the lawsuit’s direction.

To give you a better idea of how these types of cases differ and what you can expect with each, we’ll break down how mass torts and class action lawsuits work.

What Is a Mass Tort Claim?

As the name indicates, mass tort claims involve many people claiming the defendant was negligent. The plaintiffs (group of people suing the negligent party) tend to come from the same geographical area, such as the state of Indiana.

However, the plaintiffs don’t have to be from the same geographical area. And when that happens, the case might move forward in federal court.

Generally, these cases involve plaintiffs that have suffered similar injuries or illnesses due to the same event, such as a faulty product or dangerous drug.

The defendant has to be guilty of negligence or misconduct, generally against a corporation or large entity. However, it is possible to name an individual as the defendant.

To have a mass tort case, two elements must be present.

  1. The plaintiffs must have suffered injuries from the same defendant
  2. The cause of those injuries must be due to an identical harmful act

While the case involves a group of plaintiffs, each plaintiff will have an attorney presenting evidence about their client’s injuries and impacts from the negligence of the defendant. That’s because each plaintiff will receive compensation based on their financial impacts, unlike in a class action where the final settlement amount is split evenly among the plaintiffs.

What Is a Class-Action Lawsuit?

Class action lawsuits involve a group of people suing an at-fault party. But instead of each plaintiff representing themselves in the case independently, a small group of class representatives represent the entire class. That means that most plaintiffs will have little say in the case.

To start a class-action lawsuit, all plaintiffs do not have to sign on before the case moves forward in the court system. However, federal law does ensure that all possible plaintiffs are notified of the case as it proceeds through the legal system. The prospective class action members must have the option to opt out of the case, at which point they can pursue their own case against the at-fault entity if they want to.

For the courts to approve a class-action lawsuit, several requirements must be met.

  1. The class size is large enough that individual lawsuits on behalf of each plaintiff are not practical
  2. Each class member has similar legal issues
  3. The class members share claims and defenses
  4. Class representatives can represent the interests of the entire class

Do You Have a Mass Tort or Class-Action Lawsuit?

Thankfully, you do not have to determine whether your case is better suited for a mass tort or class action lawsuit. That’s the work of your attorney. Indiana defense attorneys stay up to date on cases happening both locally and throughout the country. When we meet with potential clients and review evidence, we can determine if joining an existing case is what makes sense based on your circumstances.

If you’re unsure about whether you might qualify to join a mass tort or class action lawsuit, contact Stewart & Stewart. We offer a free consultation to guide you in the best next steps for your case.

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