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Mass Torts: Your Guide from Start to Finish

Gordon, Wolf & Carney Feb. 21, 2022

A tort is a legal term that refers to a civil wrong committed by a person or company against another party that results in some form of harm, whether a physical injury, financial loss, emotional distress, or property damage. The entity who commits the tort is referred to as a ‘tortfeasor’ and is legally responsible for any harm their wrong caused the victim(s). Some examples of tort cases include personal injury lawsuits, employment litigation, and product liability claims. Often torts have one or two plaintiffs. But if a large group of people suffers the same injuries resulting from negligence from the same person or company, they may qualify as a “mass tort.”

What Is a Mass Tort?

A mass tort involves tort claims filed by numerous individuals, against one or more of the same tortfeasors. Common types of tort claims include environmental torts, consumer product claims, pharmaceutical claims, and claims arising from accidents involving transit carriers.

Difference Between a Mass Tort Action and a Class Action

Although both torts and class action cases involve numerous people with claims against the same party or parties, unlike in most class actions a mass tort action required each plaintiff to affirmatively file individual claims. The litigation of those individually filed claims may then be coordinated.

Filing a Mass Tort Action

When a large group of victims sues one or more parties over the same tort, the cases are often consolidated, or grouped together. Sometimes mass tort cases filed in several courts across one state are consolidated into one court in the state, and proceed in front of one judge. Sometimes tort cases proceeding in several different federal courts are consolidated into what is called “multidistrict litigation” or an “MDL” which proceeds in one court, in front of one judge – at least for part of the case.

Whether mass tort cases are consolidated or otherwise coordinated often involves questions of:

  • The number of plaintiffs involved

  • The plaintiffs’ geographical location

  • The similarity of the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs

  • Whether the claims made are associated with a common cause

How Long Does a Mass Tort Claim Usually Last?

Because each mass tort action is unique and revolves around a different set of circumstances, there’s no definite time frame for these types of lawsuits.

The Typical Mass Tort Action Process

Although the circumstances of each case may vary, most mass tort actions follow the same process.

  • The attorney(s) involved will review testimony, medical records, and other pieces of evidence linked to the plaintiffs’ injuries to establish the basis of their claims.

  • The lawyer will then examine each plaintiff’s evidence for injury consistency to check for similarities across all the cases to provide a basis for compensation

  • After filing, coordinated mass tort litigation often involves what are called “bellwether trials” of some individual claims. These trials will act as a test to determine how the court will handle each case and the outcomes the other plaintiffs could see.

  • Mass tort lawyers often seek to negotiate with the defendant to reach an amicable settlement, before trial. If the case is not settled, the case will either be resolved by the Court or proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will determine whether to hold the alleged tortfeasor responsible, and any damages to be awarded.

How Can a Mass Tort Attorney Help?

Consulting a skilled attorney is the best way to determine if you have grounds for a mass tort lawsuit. A Maryland mass torts attorney will be able to evaluate your case’s merit and conduct necessary research to find eligible plaintiffs to join your lawsuit.

A mass torts lawyer will also help you get access to expert witnesses who can testify on your behalf, negotiate with corporate legal teams for your settlement, and guide you through every step of your lawsuit.

Looking for a Baltimore Tort Lawyer?

The lawyers at Gordon Wolf & Carney can help.