Mass tort examples include: multiple households suffering groundwater contamination from one factory, or all of the surviving family members of a commercial airplane crash.
Mass tort cases are collections of similar legal actions that deal with the same issue. These cases can get very large and extremely complex as they frequently deal with large entities (like corporations) and multi-district litigation across states. That is why you need seasoned mass tort lawyers handling such lawsuits on behalf of you and every other plaintiff dealing with the same injustice.
The attorneys at Pittman, Dutton, Hellums, Bradley & Mann have decades of experience taking on large entities like multi-national companies, all in the interest of individual clients and their families. If you have an injury case that may have community- or nationwide implications, contact us at (205) 322-8880. No matter how far-reaching your case becomes, our offices are equipped to help you.
Read on to learn more about mass torts, class action and multi-district cases, and how these collective efforts deliver real results to the largest possible group of individuals.
A “tort” is a civil lawsuit (separate from criminal prosecutions) dealing with a wrongdoing that caused a person harm, loss, or suffering. “Mass torts” refer to legal actions that group together numerous individual lawsuits which involve the same issue.
Mass torts could involve:
The key feature is that these are separate cases that nevertheless involve the same complaint about a harmful action or negligence.
For example, if you were injured because of a mislabeled vitamin supplement product, you could file a legal claim against the manufacturer. Additionally, due to the nature of large-scale manufacturing, many people may have suffered similar issues due to the exact same problem with the vitamin product.
As each individual brings their own case, the court may bundle them together. This can happen if the evidence and decision will be the same for every case, while respecting that each case might require a different reward amount (see the next section for more details on individual payouts). This saves everyone time and helps to simplify what could be many complex cases into one group case. That group case is called a mass tort.
Mass tort cases join together those with similar injuries or circumstances, while still allowing your case—and your compensation rewards—to be judged based on your individual needs.
Mass torts are similar to class action lawsuits, in the sense that they are both bundles of plaintiffs seeking justice based on the same problem or injury. However, there are a few key differences that mean everything regarding your potential payout.
Class actions are helpful for those who were injured, but do not have enough documented evidence to prove it in court. In those instances, attorneys seek out the strongest case of the group (the one most likely to get the maximum payout), and make sure everyone can share the victory.
Mass torts, on the other hand, allow you to maintain your own claims for damages.
An example situation is wrongful death awards after a mass accident like a plane crash. A widowed parent of young children who lost the family’s sole breadwinner would be awarded based on those specific financial needs, while a surviving retired spouse who is financially stable wouldn’t require the same amount of compensation.
Both of these spouses deserve compensation for the emotional injury of a lost companion, but the spouse with dependent children has additional financial hardships that need to be addressed separately.
Mass tort cases have already impacted your life. Famous mass tort cases include:
Toxic exposure: Cases involving Agent Orange (an herbicide deployed by the military in Vietnam and affecting veterans) as well as asbestos exposure in construction and manufacturing jobs throughout the United States
Medical implants: Silicone breast implants associated with cancer and autoimmune diseases, and surgical meshes due to unsafe infection rates and internal organ injuries
False advertising: Lawsuits brought against “Big Tobacco” cigarette companies for fraudulent advertising and failing to warn consumers about the health risks of smoking
Environmental contamination: Groundwater poisoning by PG&E utility company in California (commonly known as the “Erin Brockovich” case) and the Gulf oil spill by the BP energy company
Mass accidents: Airplane crashes, cruise ship accidents, and work site explosions (like the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster of West Virginia)
When one negligent act or a singluar wrongdoer injuries so many people, mass tort cases are an efficient way for individuals to influence massive safety changes. Mass torts help improve standards for industries and companies we all rely on, and holds them accountable for the damage they’ve done.
Mass tort litigation can help increase and accelerate the settlement you need after suffering from a wrongful action or inaction. These cases can also help make enormous health and safety changes across the country, potentially saving lives. If your individual case becomes part of a mass tort lawsuit, it could mean providing a world of help for others as you pursue justice for yourself.
At Pittman, Dutton, Hellums, Bradley & Mann, we have successfully handled complex, multi-district cases involving massive, multi-national corporations—all on behalf of individual clients. There is no case too big for us, and no person too small to matter, which is why our clients receive our full support every step of the way, no matter how their case develops.
Contact Pittman, Dutton, Hellums, Bradley & Mann by calling (205) 322-8880 or filling out our online form to schedule your free consultation. With our experienced attorneys by your side, you need not be intimidated if you have an injury based on a far-reaching issue.
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Bellwether cases are essentially test cases in mass tort litigation.
The term “bellwether” originally referred to a particular ram among a flock of sheep known as a “wether.” One wether would be chosen to wear a bell so the shepherd would know by sound where the flock had roamed. The term is commonly used to describe “one that takes the lead” in political trends and forecasting.
In mass tort cases, there is often a smaller group of cases that are selected for trial first. The decisions made in those initial verdicts help indicate the appropriate range of damages for every case that could go to trial. However, in the interest of saving time and resources for all involved, not all cases have to be tried, and can instead be settled for the predicted amount of compensation based on bellwether trial results.
Both mass torts and class actions can involve multi-district litigation (MDL), which is a special civil procedure that transfers cases from across the country into one specific court’s jurisdiction.
For mass tort cases, MDL may not always apply, because each person maintains their own lawsuit, and can choose to go to trial independently in their own court district. It still remains true that in a class action suit, all parties are joined together in the same case behind the best representative from the group, and are rewarded the same amount of damages from a shared compensation pool.
Mass tort cases frequently fall into three categories:
Product liability cases also have different subcategory types. These may depend on whether they involve issues of defective design, defective manufacturing, or failure to properly label the item with important warnings or instructions.
By filing a personal injury case for an issue that affects many others, you may ultimately end up with a mass tort case. But since mass tort cases only form after multiple individuals bring lawsuits based on the same injury or circumstance, you need not plan for them—your case is about your injury first and foremost. If your case eventually joins a mass tort, the sheer number of cases can help expose companies’ misconduct and accomplish:
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