What Are Mass Torts?
Our Mass Tort Litigation Lawyers Will Fight for Your Compensation
A product liability mass tort encompasses anywhere from dozens all the way to hundreds of thousands of claimants who have suffered similar injuries from a defendant’s (or group of defendants’) products. Mass torts are often confused with class action lawsuits, however, class actions involve one lawsuit that represents a class of similarly situated plaintiffs whereas with mass tort litigation, every plaintiff’s case is filed individually into one centralized court. Each mass tort plaintiff’s claim will proceed independently, alleging the same or similar claims as other plaintiffs.
A Mass Tort is a case where many people are wrongfully harmed in a similar way, by a similar product — often by a drug, medical device or defective product, a recent example is the Takata airbag recall, which affects millions of cars. When the worst happens, you need a mass tort attorney to help you seek justice.
Though we have defended the rights of Americans in a wide range of practice areas, with the same goal consistently in mind, we are committed to cases that specifically involve a personal injury and mass tort injuries (i.e. a personal injury case where many people are injured by the same product).
Furthermore, we take on cases that involve:
Have you used a drug that later caused you to be hospitalized? Chances are, you’re not alone.
Today, it’s common for devices to be fast-tracked through the 510(k) program, which brings new products to market without adequate testing.
Medical professionals often use pharmaceuticals to help individuals in pain. However, these synthetic drugs don’t always react well to the body and can cause life-threatening injuries.
Bellwether Trials and Mass Tort Litigation
A bellwether trial is a test case that is intended to provide the court and the parties with information on how mass tort litigation will move forward. Plaintiffs and defendants choose cases they believe would be representative of a large portion of plaintiffs involved in the litigation. In most mass tort litigations, both plaintiffs and defendants will win at least one trial.
Bellwether trials answer many questions lawyers have for both parties, and they get a sense of how a jury will react to the evidence and arguments presented by both sides. Although a bellwether trial cannot predict the overall outcome of mass tort litigation (such as whether a settlement is on the horizon), a bellwether trial at least provides a snapshot as to how one jury sees the strength of the plaintiff’s claims.
In order to have a group of claims designated as mass tort litigation, mass tort attorneys representing the plaintiff(s) apply to federal or state court.
Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation
In the federal system, this process is initiated by filing a motion before the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, a group of federal judges who meet every few months to consider such requests. Those judges have the power to order all individual cases filed in the federal system to be transferred and consolidated before one federal judge. Several states, such as California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have procedures similar to those used in federal multi-district litigation. The drug injury lawyers at our mass tort law firm know that Florida does not have formal rules for statewide management of mass tort cases. Historically, courts in this state have informally coordinated centralized management of complex cases, like the thousands of breast implant, diet drug and tobacco cases that have been litigated in the state over the past two decades.
The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, as well as state courts that are considering whether mass tort treatment is appropriate, must consider a number of different issues:
- Are there are a large number of claims associated with a single product or issue?
- Is there a high degree of commonality among the issues and actors?
- Is there substantial value interdependence among the individual cases?
- Is there geographical disparity among the parties?
- Is there a high level of commonality of injuries and/or damages among plaintiffs?
- Is this jurisdiction fair and convenient to plaintiffs, witnesses and attorneys?
- Would coordinated discovery and management be advantageous?
- Does centralization result in effective utilization of judicial resources, facilities and personnel?
- Are there related issues pending in federal or other state courts that require coordination by a single judge?
- Is there a chance that centralization could unreasonably delay progress, increase expenses or prejudice the outcome?
Once a mass tort designation has been established and a judge has been selected, the judge typically holds a hearing to establish a schedule for certain issues, such as pretrial procedures, discovery issues, forms, calendaring and other details. All mass tort cases involve complex and substantial discovery. Discovery is the process of obtaining relevant documents, data and testimony from the defendants and others. Once individual trials begin, attorneys for all of the plaintiffs draw upon this collective body of information to establish the evidence and testimony necessary to win the case.
Our Florida mass tort litigation lawyers has a proven track record of substantial recoveries in mass tort litigation. Currently, we represent thousands of victims who are pursuing a mass tort lawsuit against some of the most powerful industries around the world. Most of these lawsuits involve a defective and dangerous drug, consumer product or medical device.
Stryker Hip Replacements: Our firm continues to hold leadership positions following the medical device recalls of Stryker’s Rejuvenate, ABGII and TMZF V40 modular hip systems.
Actos: Our firm has aggressively represented our clients against the maker of Actos, which was linked to causing bladder cancer.
A “tort” is a civil – rather than criminal – wrong committed by one person that results in injury to another. (In the legal context, a “person” can be a business or corporation.) Our civil justice system is founded upon principles of personal responsibility. As a result, a person who commits a tort is responsible for the harm caused and is liable for the physical and financial damages incurred by the victim.
As previously mentioned, mass tort cases allow many people harmed by the same person (or, in most instances, the same corporation) to benefit from shared research, efficiency and economy of scale, but still have their cases considered individually. The cases are pursued as individual lawsuits, often consolidated in the beginning by the Court. Mass tort cases are frequently confused with class actions, yet mass torts are far different than class actions. Class actions involve the claims of multiple parties, all brought in the same suit.
Some mass torts arise out of widespread disasters, such as the Exxon and BP oil spills, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the MGM Las Vegas hotel fire and various airlines crashes. Others are triggered by government action, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall of automobiles with design defects. Still, others come about as a result of violations by big businesses in antitrust claims, deceptive and fraudulent business practices and security fraud; or from scientific studies that discover previously undisclosed dangers of consumer products, such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
Unique Characteristics of Mass Tort Cases
- A large number of claims which derive from a single product or event: For example, many patients were injured by the same defective medical device, or numerous neighbors were sickened by the same toxic spill.
- All of the claims have factual and legal issues in common: The cases share identical or similar issues of law and fact associated with a single product, disaster, action or event.
- The claimants share a common goal: The aggregate value of all the claims rise and fall with the outcomes of the individual cases or other critical developments.
- Frequently, the cases are consolidated in the beginning: In an effort to promote judicial economy and promote consistency, one judge decides preliminary issues of law and discovery.
- Every claimant has his own, individual case: Unlike class actions, each claimant retains control over decisions regarding their case. If the case is tried by a jury, most of the time it is tried independently of the other mass tort cases.
By consolidating mass tort cases for preliminary pre-trial matters, and then trying the cases individually, our court system seeks to balance the interests of injured parties who have a right to have their claims individually addressed against the need for cost-efficient and timely proceedings. In doing so, lawyers and judges handling mass tort cases borrow some concepts from class action cases, while retaining each injured party’s individual case. Our mass tort litigation law firm outlines some important distinctions between class action claims and mass tort actions.
- In class actions, one representative lawsuit is filed by one or more plaintiffs on behalf of many other claimants who are in the same or similar situations.
- There is one trial on behalf of “the class,” and when a settlement or verdict is reached, all the members of the class share in the proceeds, often on an equal basis.
In order to obtain class certification, it is important to show that all of the class members have been harmed in the same fashion. This is why class action lawsuits generally are inappropriate for plaintiffs who have suffered personal injuries. Class actions are often used to recover financial losses under consumer fraud laws.
In mass tort litigation, individual cases are consolidated only for purposes of:
- Pre-trial procedures involving generic discovery and causation (document production and review, depositions of fact witnesses and development of expert witness reports and testimony)
- Case management briefing and consideration of various legal and evidentiary issues
- Weighing of sufficiency of expert witness testimony
- Resolution of disputes that arise during discovery
Each plaintiff’s case proceeds forward individually, and if the case is tried, it is tried individually. Any damages awarded in trial go to the individual, not to a class for later division.
What is a “Wave” Case?
Once mass tort litigations are far enough along that multiple bellwether trials have taken place, judges often issue orders in groups or “waves,” directing a certain number of claims to be set on a trial track. Wave cases are intended to push the litigation along and are common when judges want litigation to reach the settlement stage. Wave cases may be randomly chosen, or they may be chosen based on the type of injury.
Will I Have to Travel as Part of My Mass Tort Lawsuit?
It depends. In most mass tort cases, plaintiffs do not need to travel, but there are always exceptions. When mass tort litigation involves tens of thousands of plaintiffs, only a small portion of those cases will proceed to trial, at least initially. The bellwether trials will occur in the court where the litigation is consolidated.
Most mass torts are consolidated in one federal multidistrict litigation (MDL), but some mass torts are housed in state consolidated actions. If your case is a bellwether case, your trial will likely occur in the MDL or state consolidated court. That court may or may not be your home state.
Cases that are not dismissed or resolved through a settlement are eventually sent back to their home district courts. As such, traveling for purposes of going to court is unlikely unless your case is picked as a bellwether case. Travel may be required to give a deposition, however, attorneys typically travel to where a plaintiff lives, and with so many proceedings occurring virtually, you may never have to travel as a part of your mass tort lawsuit.
How Can I Track the Status of My Mass Tort Case?
At Searcy Denney, we provide clients with periodic status updates concerning the progress of each client’s individual case as well as the status of the overall litigation. Examples of information contained in our status updates include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Whether any trials have taken place in the MDL or state consolidated court, and if so, what the results of those trials are;
- Whether a client’s case will be chosen to proceed to trial (either as a bellwether case or a wave case);
- Whether a client’s case is on a settlement track, and if so, how long to expect that settlement process to take; and
- Whether there have been any important court rulings that impact the litigation one way or another (either good or bad).
Our mass tort lawyers are always available to speak with clients about their pending claims. We also employ a strong legal staff that is immensely helpful to clients.
Can Mass Tort Lawyers Help Clients From any Location?
Yes. Because mass tort litigation involves plaintiffs from all fifty states (and perhaps some U.S. territories), many mass tort lawyers have the means of reaching clients from anywhere. Searcy Denney represents clients nationwide and will travel to meet with clients when necessary.
Our Mass Tort Litigation Law Firm Wants to Help
For our assistance, call us today at (800) 780-8607, or feel free to use our convenient contact form. Because of time constraints, it’s better to reach out as soon as possible. At Searcy Denney, we want to help you — you don’t have to do it alone.
We’ve sought after and won justice for our clients in cases against major companies, including:
- Alamo Rental Car
- Allstate Insurance, Co.
- Arthur Anderson
- Bridgestone/Firestone Tires, LLC
- Dow Corning Corporation
- Florida Department of Transportation
- Isuzu Motors Limited
- Phillip Morris
- State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, Co.
For a complete list of our victories, visit Cases Won Against Corporations.