What You Need to Know About Class Action Lawsuits

Mass Tort Litigation vs. Class Action Lawsuits: What’s the Difference?


What happens when several individuals are collectively affected by the actions of a single party? Do each of these individuals have to file a separate lawsuit against the defendant? When you think about it, you realize that this would be quite time-consuming. And so, generally, the affected parties can seek out one of two forms of judicial relief. 


They can either pursue a mass tort litigation against the defendant or opt for a class-action lawsuit. However, while both of these are similar, they are not entirely the same. And so depending on the circumstances surrounding a particular case, one or the other might be a better-suited procedure for the plaintiffs to obtain justice. 


But, in order to be able to make the right choice, it is important to understand the nuances of these two forms of civil action. So, let’s first have a look at them individually, and then analyze the similarities and differences between them. 

What Is a Mass Tort Litigation?

A mass tort litigation is generally carried out by a number of plaintiffs who have suffered some kind of injury by the same group of defendants. This can either take place at a state court or a federal court of law. These cases often include instances of torts like product liability, defective products, and mass injuries caused by a company’s negligence.


It is not necessary for the injuries suffered to be the same between the plaintiffs. However, the defendant who caused such injury must be the same. Hence, compensation may differ from plaintiff to plaintiff, but the main defendant remains the same.


A mass tort litigation generally goes hand in hand with a multidistrict litigation (MDL). An MDL occurs when several similar cases are filed by separate individuals against the same person (or cooperation) for a similar reason. The lawsuits are then clubbed together before a federal court, to carry out different legal proceedings like discovery and so on.


Discovery is generally carried out by a group of lawyers (Plaintiff’s Steering Committee) appointed by the judge. The process simply exists to streamline the process.


An MDL is simply a system to compensate several people, based on the common injury, but fine-tuned to the uniqueness of each individual case. Here, each plaintiff, though a part of a broader lawsuit, can still retain their lawyers and be judged on the merits of their own cases.



What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

Like a mass tort litigation, a class action lawsuit also involves several plaintiffs with a similar grievance against the same defendant. However, everyone affected is represented by one person or group of people.


The plaintiffs don’t need to have their own individual lawyers or a subsisting lawsuit. However, they do have to consent to being identified as affected victims to the injury in the class action lawsuit.


Once they have consented to be class representatives, the lawyers can continue with the proceedings. The decision made by the judge will be binding on the entire class. Generally, the lawyers would use the best representatives of the class to establish their case and get the maximum amount of compensation.

Class Action Legal Documents


The Similarity

Both types of civil action involve the representation of multiple plaintiffs, dealing with the same or very similar grievances against the same defendant. The principles behind both judicial procedures are to cut down the multiplicity of cases and streamline the process of justice for multiple personal injury cases. 

Based on these elements alone, you can see why differentiating the two is so difficult. However, there are a few major differences that stand out. 



The Major Differences

While both procedures involve large groups, there is a huge difference between how these groups are treated in court. Here are the two major differences between a mass tort litigation and a class action lawsuit. 


The Verdict

In a class-action lawsuit, the plaintiffs are treated as a single “class”. The verdict is singular and extends to every plaintiff or class representative in that specific case. Here, a single lawyer or group of lawyers will present facts and establish the case for the entirety of the class. 

However, in a mass tort litigation, each plaintiff’s case will be judged on its own merits. While the standard of compensation may remain the same, the actual compensation will vary from person to person, depending on their injury and circumstances. Each plaintiff still has to prove their own facts.


The Claim

Another major difference is the spectrum of injury. 

In a class-action lawsuit, the injury suffered by the plaintiff is likely to be very specific. Hence, it is easier for a single group of lawyers to represent the facts of several plaintiffs. 

However, in a mass tort litigation, the plaintiffs may have varying types of injuries, even though the defendant might be the same. So, here it allows for a broader set of injuries because it has a broader scope for compensation. 

For example, the Juul lawsuit claim addresses negligence on the part of the company and their role in the outbreak of lung illnesses due to vaping. Persons injured through these products may suffer a diverse range of harmful effects like addiction, illness or even death. 

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The Process

Another difference between the two is the rules surrounding the judicial processes involved. Here are a few federal rules for the procedure involved in a class-action lawsuit. 

  • A class-action lawsuit can only be held if the joinder of all members is impractical.
  • There must be a common question of fact or law among the members of the class. 
  • The representative party must have a defense or claim similar to the rest of its class. 
  • The interests of the class must be fairly and adequately represented and protected.


Additionally, all members of the class must be notified of the particulars of the case. They must also be given sufficient time to consent or withdraw consent for their participation. Additionally, the main representative of the class must file a motion to represent the class and also prove that a class action lawsuit is the best possible option for those involved. 

For example, it was discovered that the continued consumption of Zantac could have detrimental effects on the body. However, in this case, filing a class-action lawsuit might not be the most practical idea, given the diversity of effects possible. Instead, it would be smarter to opt for a more time effective legal remedy.

A mass tort litigation would involve a different process of simply reviewing statements made by similar claimants, looking for injury consistency among the claims, consolidating the cases and ultimately, trying these cases in court.

This would be an effective way for all claimants to pool together their resources and information, enabling them to strengthen each other’s cases.  



How to Figure Out What Kind of Claim You Have

Now that you’re familiar with the differences and similarities between the two, you may wonder what the right choice for you is. If you find that the injury you’ve had is similar to that of other people, but not the same, you should opt for a mass tort litigation. 

This is usually the case when it comes to dealing with faulty drugs, medication, defective products and so on. In the Roundup case, the herbicide was said to contain harmful ingredients that could cause cancer. So if you or someone you know has been affected by this product or similar products, it is best to get in touch with a qualified lawyer as soon as possible. 

We do understand that the process of analyzing your own case can get extremely tricky, and so we would advise you to get in touch with a mass tort lawyer. 



Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Case

Before you choose your lawyer, be sure to do a lot of research into their experience, reviews, and expertise concerning personal injury law and mass tort claims. Know that there are law firms who allow you free legal consultations on your case, so you can always gauge how comfortable you are during the initial sessions, before narrowing down on your lawyer. 

If you’re unsure if you even have a case, we encourage you to take this quick quiz to help you figure it out. If you need any help with regard to your case or understanding any legal concepts, all you have to do is fill out this form and we’ll get right back to you with personalized insights. 

Contact our California personal injury lawyers for a free case review. Tell us about your injury and we will determine your next steps.