What is the Difference Between a Class Action and a Mass Tort?

Class Action

Class actions and mass torts are both types of lawsuits involving a large number of plaintiffs wanting to sue for injuries from a defendant’s conduct. Because those affected by the defendant’s alleged wrongdoing are large in number, these lawsuits join them all in an action against the defendant. Although a class action and mass tort ultimately have the same purpose, the two are handled much differently.

What is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit allows a number of individuals who have experienced common damages to assert their claims in one lawsuit together. In a class action lawsuit, a large number of people join together in a representative action naming only one or a few individual plaintiffs in the complaint. These “class representatives” sue on behalf of the defined class against one or more defendants.

In federal court, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 governs certifying a class and the requisite elements for certification. But, a class action lawsuit can also be brought in state court. Each state has its own laws regarding class actions, and most states use rules similar to the federal rules.

How is a Class Action Different Than a Mass Tort?

The main difference between a mass tort and a class action lawsuit has to do with how the courts treat the group of plaintiffs.

In a mass tort, each plaintiff files his or her own lawsuit individually, but all in the same court. Even though the plaintiff is part of a large group, he or she is still treated as an individual. In a class action, a class representative is the only named party in the actual lawsuit. The class representative alone represents everyone in a large group of plaintiffs, and no individual lawsuits are filed. Many mass tort cases are combined into what is called Multi-District Litigation, or MDL. In an MDL, a single judge is appointed to oversee many cases in order to handle them efficiently and in the same manner.

How Much Do Class Actions and Mass Torts Cost?

A potential claimant will pay no money out-of-pocket as a class action lawsuit class member or a mass tort client, regardless of the outcome. In class actions and mass torts at Raizner Slania, our attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, where the firm pays all costs and expenses. We are only paid if we are successful in obtaining a recovery on your behalf.

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