Consumers use and depend on countless products every day and turn to businesses to provide specific services, many of which require trained professionals or other resources. Great trust is placed in the hands of the people and companies that design, manufacture, distribute, and sell these products and services we rely on.
We expect drinking water, cars, food, and medication to be safe and dangerous products to be properly tested and come with appropriate warnings and instructions for use. Unfortunately, individuals and businesses don’t always protect consumers in the way they must, putting them at risk of harm and injuries.
When someone is hurt, and another party is liable due to their negligence, a civil lawsuit may help victims recover compensation and hold others accountable for their actions. But when the same thing or situation harms many people, it often results in a mass tort.
What is a Mass Tort?
A mass tort is a civil lawsuit that involves an act or omission that causes multiple people injuries or harm. Mass torts are made up of a group of individual lawsuits by plaintiffs who were hurt by the defendant in the same or similar way. Historically, these cases have involved dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of plaintiffs.
Types of mass torts include defective or dangerous products or medications, catastrophic accidents like plane crashes, toxic exposure, and explosions. In each type of mass tort claim, there’s a common defendant, and in some cases, there’s more than one.
Why Do I Need to Know About Mass Torts?
For the average consumer, the law is complicated. When you’re injured, develop an illness, or suffer another type of harm, like financial losses, the legal process and fighting for your rights can be overwhelming and difficult. Without legal counsel, the outcome of your case is at risk.
If another party’s negligence or wrongful act is responsible for injuring or harming several people in the same or similar way or under the same circumstances, it’s important to know about mass torts so all legal avenues are explored. Joining a mass tort can be beneficial in several ways; resources are pooled, which can help strengthen individual lawsuits.
Contrary to class action lawsuits, which also involve numerous plaintiffs suing the same party, plaintiffs in a mass tort are treated as individuals with their own cases. In class actions, all plaintiffs are considered a single entity. Mass torts give individual plaintiffs more control, but there are benefits to both. Understanding there may be different legal options available and how they work better protects the rights of victims.
What’s the Purpose of a Mass Tort?
Many people aren’t aware of why mass torts exist until they’re harmed and have suffered losses. At its core, the purpose of a mass tort is to make the legal process more efficient. Instead of numerous individual cases, sometimes thousands of them, tying up courts in different states and/or districts for years, grouping plaintiffs who were harmed in the same or similar way by a defendant streamlines the process.
In addition, lawsuits are expensive, require extensive resources, and take up a lot of time for everyone involved. A mass tort makes the process more efficient for everyone.
Often, mass tort lawsuits are consolidated through multidistrict litigation (MDL). This further speeds up claims as the discovery phase, including interviews and evidence gathering, is shared and consolidated for all plaintiffs. Bellwether trials – kind of like test trials of cases that are most representative of the plaintiffs in the mass tort – show both sides how the lawsuits will play out in court. When a mass tort is consolidated into MDL, it can help with negotiations and reveal the probable values of claims.
How Do I Find Out About Mass Torts?
Staying current with news, researching online, and consulting with an attorney when injured or harmed by a product or other circumstance can protect and inform victims of their rights. A free consultation with an experienced lawyer is one of the best ways to determine whether your case qualifies as part of a mass tort, along with your other legal options and steps to take.
Aside from speaking with a mass tort lawyer, plaintiffs often discover they were harmed in the same way as others through the media and mass tort law firms that advertise or publish information on the topic.
Such is the case of chemical hair straighteners and relaxers, which have been linked to serious health conditions. Recent studies have shown that the chemicals in these beauty products are carcinogenic and are associated with ovarian and uterine cancer. Hair straightener lawsuits are being filed for negligence that allowed dangerous products to be used for decades without warning consumers of the risks.
How are Mass Tort Settlements Distributed?
Settlements in a mass tort case vary but are not like class actions, where one amount is agreed upon and distributed to victims in the class. That said, if the mass tort is consolidated into MDL, a settlement may be offered to everyone, but each plaintiff gets to decide whether they’ll accept it.
Several factors affect how much compensation individual plaintiffs in a mass tort may be offered based on the severity of damages suffered. If a faulty product causes a permanent disability that will have lifelong repercussions, the level of compensation they’re offered will be greater than someone with less serious injuries.
In a mass tort, plaintiffs can choose to move forward with their case on an individual basis and either negotiate a settlement with their legal team or take it to court to try for a jury award. The flexibility to decide what happens with your case is an aspect of mass torts that appeals to many plaintiffs.
Why Are Mass Torts Important?
Mass torts help compensate and get justice for victims harmed in the same or similar way. There can be widespread effects when consumers use something like a dangerous product, and they’re injured as a result; medical bills, future needs, lost income, emotional trauma, financial losses, and other damages may be recovered through a mass tort.
Compensation for another party’s negligence can go a long way to alleviating the burden of an injury or other harm. But there’s much more to why mass torts are important.
When numerous people suffer and lawsuits are filed, it draws attention to how it happened – and how to prevent it from happening again. Mass torts have led to policy changes, new legislation, and improved safety standards and protocols in countless industries. Preventing people from being harmed becomes a priority, along with holding the defendant accountable for an act or omission that led to the mass tort.
If you’ve been injured by a dangerous or defective product, medication, medical device, a plane crash, explosion or toxic exposure, the mass tort lawyers at The Cochran Firm Texas are here to help. Contact us online or at 1-866-892-6148 for a free consultation.
Danae N. Benton cares about her clients and works with them in their fight to hold large corporations accountable. Her practice is focused on complex civil litigation, where she represents individuals whose lives have been egregiously affected by defective implants, harmful medical devices, and dangerous prescription drugs.