The Difference Between Class Action and Mass Tort Lawsuits

Learn about the differences between class action & mass tort lawsuits & how they affect your legal rights & entitlements.

The Difference Between Class Action and Mass Tort Lawsuits

When it comes to legal action, there are two main types of lawsuits that are often confused and interchanged: class action lawsuits and mass tort litigation. While both options offer a way for courts to handle many cases at once, there are significant procedural differences between the two. A class action lawsuit is generally broader than a mass tort and includes more plaintiffs. The trade-off in these cases is that each individual plaintiff has little participation in the management of the lawsuit.

The named plaintiff must have the same demand as the rest of the group and must “fairly and adequately protect the interests of the group”. The entire class in a class action lawsuit or the group of plaintiffs in mass tort litigation must allege an injury on the part of the same defendant. The class representative's argument will essentially be the same as that presented on behalf of the entire class of victims. Mass torts, on the other hand, are closer to traditional injury lawsuits, in which each plaintiff is treated as an individual in the lawsuit. The term tort simply refers to an injury lawsuit.

Mass torts are exactly what they sound like: a lot of injuries at the same time. Mass tort actions occur when a lawyer files multiple lawsuits against the same defendant (or group of defendants) simultaneously. A mass tort is a legal action that several plaintiffs can bring against one or more guilty parties in civil court. The claim involves similar complaints, and people who suffer physical or financial harm due to the negligence of a large company often file these types of claims.

Individuals can file a massive grievance at the state and federal levels. Massive torts allow for greater variability in the compensation awarded to plaintiffs than class actions, but they result in more lawsuits. While only one lawsuit needs to be filed in a class action lawsuit, a mass tort generally consists of a large group of lawsuits. Each plaintiff will have their own lawsuit. Instead of each member of a class, which could be thousands of people, having their own judgment, a class action lawsuit allows the problem to be resolved for the entire class in a single lawsuit. Some massive grievances will end in class actions where collective certification is possible, but many won't.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that all lawsuits, including class actions and mass tort cases, are governed by “statute of limitations”. The number of people injured in mass tort cases is sometimes lower than that of people injured in larger class action lawsuits. In a free consultation, we'll determine if your injury is already covered by a class action lawsuit, you may already be entitled to compensation for damages. Choosing not to participate in the class action lawsuit allows you to hire your own legal counsel to file your own lawsuit. It's important to understand the differences between these two types of legal actions so that you can make an informed decision about which option is best for you. Both class action lawsuits and collective tort litigation consolidate legal action during part of the process, using a single case or a few cases to represent the entire group of cases.