Differences Between Mass Tort and Class Action Lawsuits

October 20, 2020

When it comes to dangerous and defective products, many plaintiffs suffer similar injuries due to the same act or acts of negligence. Filing hundreds of individual lawsuits against the product’s manufacturer can be costly and time consuming, so many attorneys turn to two large lawsuit options to streamline the claims: mass torts, or multidistrict litigation (MDL), and class actions. These two legal pathways may seem similar, but they involve very different litigation and settlement distribution processes.

#1: The Nature of the Injuries

While both types of litigation involve claims against the same defendant or group of defendants, the nature of the injuries that the plaintiffs suffer differ between mass torts and class actions. Class action lawsuits are appropriate for multiple plaintiffs who suffer the same or substantially similar injuries and are filing a claim against the same at-fault party.
On the other hand, MDL claims involve plaintiffs who may have different injuries. However, these injuries must stem from the actions of the same defendant or group of defendants. Each plaintiff will need to prove the circumstances surrounding his or her individual injuries.

#2: Treatment by the Court

One of the main differences between class action and mass tort claims is how the court views each plaintiff. In MDL claims, the court views each plaintiff as an individual. As a result, each plaintiff will need to prove the facts surrounding his or her injuries and how the defendant is responsible for his or her damages.
In a class action lawsuit, the court treats a group of plaintiffs, known as the class, as a single plaintiff. A group of class representatives are the named plaintiffs in the claim, acting as the interest of the entire injured group. Plaintiffs outside of the class representatives do not need to prove or argue the nature of their injuries; the representatives are responsible for proving the facts and need for damages on behalf of the group.

#3: Settlement Distribution

Since mass tort claims involve multiple individual lawsuits grouped into one multidistrict litigation (MDL) on the federal level, the distribution of the settlement by the court differs from class action processes. Each plaintiff in a mass tort is responsible for proving his or her individual injuries, and the court will assign a settlement value to each plaintiff based on the nature of his or her damages. One plaintiff may receive a $20,000 settlement, for example, while another plaintiff with more severe injuries may receive $50,000.
In class action claims, a handful of individuals represent the group of plaintiffs as a whole. As a result, the court does not hear how the defendant’s negligence affected each person individually. Instead, the court will assign a settlement value based on the available evidence, and an equal portion will go to each plaintiff, regardless of whether he or she was part of the representative group. For example, if a court awards a $1 million settlement and 1,000 plaintiffs are involved in the class action, each individual will receive $1,000.

Hiring a Lawyer for Mass Torts and Class Actions

If you suffered an injury due to the negligence of a large entity, you may qualify for a lawsuit involving a large number of people. Regardless of whether your case falls under the class action or MDL category, an attorney can guide you through the legal process and fight for your right to compensation. Contact a mass litigation attorney as soon as possible to discuss your claim and any pending action you may be eligible to join.