Two legal terms are sometimes confused with another, but they are distinct. Both are considered tort law. The first is class action and the second is mass tort.
Sometimes a mass tort will be mistakenly described as a class action. If you’re a plaintiff in these types of cases, it’s essential to have a general understanding of the differences in procedure.
There are some of the same features but differences that are just as important.
What Is A Class Action Lawsuit?
A class-action lawsuit is a way for people who have been harmed in some way to receive benefits. Class action lawsuits have the unique advantage of allowing large groups of people who are affected in the same or similar ways to file a lawsuit against the same organization or company as a group. The idea of “strength in numbers” comes into play with a class-action lawsuit.
If you were an individual claimant, otherwise trying to go up against a large corporation, it would be difficult. You might not have the resources that would allow you be successful in pursuing your claim on your own. As a group in a class-action lawsuit, you can seek justice by hiring an attorney as a group.
One of the more frequent examples of class action lawsuits is when the cases are filed against a company that manufactures a faulty product that injures consumers.
Along with providing more power in numbers to plaintiffs, the courts find class action suits beneficial as well. These types of group lawsuits help the courts avoid hearing many small claims related to similar situations.
Types of harm that could warrant a class action claim include illegal business practices, defective medication or employee discrimination. Other examples are a breach of contract or false advertising.
You’ll pay much less than if you filed an individual claim since the plaintiffs equally split the costs.
You’ll have to decide, however, if a class action suit is worth it to you, but even with minor damages, it may be.
The steps that you might see happen in a class-action lawsuit include:
- First, people in the class are notified. They’re then given a chance to opt out of the class action and find their own representation.
- At this point, a motion is filed in court for a plaintiff to act on behalf of the group. The plaintiff has to show their experience with the product or company is similar and representative of the others who will be involved in the lawsuit.
- A plaintiff needs to be able to show the lawsuit is the optimal way to hold defendants accountable and that there would be fewer benefits and less cost-effectiveness if there were individual lawsuits.
What Are Mass Torts?
A mass tort is a single wrongful action that injures many people. Those injured come together in a single lawsuit against one or maybe a few defendants. As is the case with class action, you have an easier road to success when you approach a situation this way.
What’s The Difference?
If class action and mass torts sound similar, they are. So, what’s the difference?
Overall the most significant differences are in how the procedures involved in the claims treat the plaintiffs. With mass tort cases, sometimes the number of injured people is smaller than you might see in a larger class action.
Each plaintiff in mass torts is treated individually, despite being part of the group.
As a result, for every plaintiff, there must be an establishment of specific facts. This can include how the person is damaged due to the defendant’s actions.
During a class action lawsuit, by contracts, the group of plaintiffs is known as the class. The group has a class representative. All members of the class are treated as a single plaintiff rather than being treated individually.
Similar to a class-action lawsuit, mass torts can reduce the number of individual court cases. Attorneys can investigate and use their findings for all the cases filed.
A mass tort does tend to be more complex than class action because of how they’re structured. The tradeoff for that is that you have more control as a plaintiff in a mass tort. Mass torts have a lot in common with a standard negligence lawsuit.
Finally, mass torts are also more likely than class action claims to involve plaintiffs from the same geographic area.