Class Action vs. Mass Tort Lawsuits: Key Differences Explained

When many people suffer injuries due to the negligence of a company, the court system would be overburdened if each of them filed a separate lawsuit. In such cases, their legal claims are consolidated in class action or mass tort lawsuits. For this reason, many plaintiffs believe that they are the same thing.

However, experienced mass tort lawyers know that each legal action has a different process and different outcomes in terms of determining and disbursing compensation to the plaintiffs. In this article, we will explain the key differences between the two types of legal actions.

The Most Important Difference: How the Plaintiffs’ Cases Are Handled

The biggest difference between class action and mass tort is how the cases are tried in court. In a class action, all the plaintiffs are grouped together (hence the name class) and one single legal action is filed on behalf of them.

In mass tort lawsuits, every plaintiff has their own individual claim against the defendant. However, they are grouped together, usually by geographical area and a few prominent cases are heard in bellwether trials.

Now, let us discuss in more detail how class action suits differ from mass tort actions based on the most relevant criteria:

1. Similarity between the Cases

A class action lawsuit requires strict conditions related to the plaintiffs. According to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure they must fulfill all of the following conditions:

  • Their number is so large that it would be impractical to try each case separately
  • The questions of law and fact are similar to the entire class
  • The claims and defenses of the representative parties are typical to those of the entire class
  • The representative of the parties will protect the interests of their group fairly and adequately

In mass torts, the facts of the claims are not entirely similar. For example, when people sue a car maker because they suffered injuries caused by defective brakes, they will form a class action.

By contrast, army veterans exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune joined in a mass tort, because each person developed different health conditions as a result of the exposure.

there are many differences between a mass tort and a class action lawsuit

2. Joining the Legal Action

Usually, people who suffered injuries due to a defective product are automatically included in the class action. They can opt out of the legal process, but must send a notification specifying this.

If you are eligible to join a mass tort lawsuit, you can file your claim by contacting an experienced mass tort lawyer at Rueb Stoller Daniel and your case will be consolidated with other similar legal actions.

3. Individual vs. Lump Sum Settlement

A very important difference between a mass tort and a class action lawsuit is that the judge will award a single lump sum settlement to the entire class of plaintiffs. This amount will be split among the plaintiffs depending on the severity of their injuries.

In a mass tort, each plaintiff will get a separate settlement, including their actual economic and non-economic damages. This may be more advantageous for people who have very large claims resulting from catastrophic injuries.

4. Legal Options If the Settlement Is Not Acceptable

Finally, if a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit is not happy with the portion of settlement they’ve obtained, there is nothing they can do to get more money. By contrast, a plaintiff in a mass tort action has the right to reject a settlement offer and continue pursuing the litigation.

Discuss Your Legal Options with an Experienced Mass Tort Lawyer!

Consulting with a skilled mass tort lawyer at Rueb Stoller Daniel is the best way of knowing if your case is classified as a class action or a mass tort lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances, we may encourage you to stay within the class of plaintiffs or pursue your own legal action.

There are many complex factors involved in this decision, and any wrong move may cost you the ability to recover the fair compensation you deserve for your economic damages, pain and suffering.

We encourage you to contact us as soon as you believe that you may have a legal claim and schedule a free case evaluation at 1-866-CALL-RSD!