Mass torts and class action suits are both ways to create collective legal action that combines the efforts of several plaintiffs in relation to one legal incident. In both cases, the plaintiffs all share a common defendant or group of defendants, and the suit alleges that the defendants caused some type of hard to all the plaintiffs. The suit consists of one legal action, not one for each of the many plaintiffs involved in the case.
However, even though there are some convenient similarities, class action lawsuits and mass torts differ significantly when it comes to how they view the plaintiffs. Specifically, under a class action suit, it is not necessary to establish facts for each individual plaintiff. They elect a single representative and the facts of the case need only be established for the representative in order for all plaintiffs to be involved. This is not the case for a mass tort. Under a mass tort, each plaintiff has their own set of circumstances and the facts and damages have to be established for each of them individually.
Mass torts and class action lawsuits are useful for different types of cases. Usually, a mass tort is appropriate when there are a loose collection of plaintiffs who may have had different experiences or legal connections to the suit, but are still bound together by some connecting facts and the list of defendants. On the other hand, the class action suit works best when there is a large group of plaintiffs who have all suffered the same type of damage and have approximately the same facts. If a case with many potential plaintiffs does not have enough internal connection to proceed as a class action, the plaintiffs’ lawyers might choose a mass tort action instead. It takes more time and effort to argue on behalf of each of several plaintiffs, but it might either be necessary due to diverging facts or damages or a better fit for the case for other reasons. Deciding between a mass tort and a class action lawsuit can have a major impact on the case’s outcome both collectively and for each plaintiff. For that reason, it takes an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer to decide which path to choose. If you have suffered from an injury or other damage along with many other people, be aware that you might be able to participate in either a mass tort or a class action suit.
What is a class action suit?
A class action lawsuit is a legal action that combines the legal cases of many different plaintiffs into one big case. This is convenient when there are one or a group of defendants who have done some kind of wrong to more than one person. For example, if a product was found to contain an illegal and harmful ingredient, then people who used that product might be eligible to create a class action lawsuit against the company who made that product. The advantage of a class action lawsuit is that rather than having the lawyers for the plaintiff and the defense argue out each individual case, the plaintiffs can choose to have one person represent all of them, reducing it down to just one case.
The advantage of this approach is that it saves time and money. By having just one suit instead of dozens, hundreds, or thousands, both sides can reduce their legal fees because the lawyers only need to work on a single case. This also means that once that single case is resolved one way or another, the process ends and the plaintiffs can divide up any award or settlement they may have obtained if they won.
For a class action suit to proceed, it has to fulfill a set of three requirements. If it fails any of them, it might be able to work as a mass tort instead. The three requirements are the following. First, the number of plaintiffs must be so large that it would be too impractical to try to conduct each case on its own. Next, each plaintiff has to have about the same facts and questions of law, so that it is possible to treat them all as essentially similar cases. Last, the plaintiffs have to choose a representative that reflects the core details of the case and matches the commonalities between all of them. Once the suit passes all three requirements, it can proceed as if it was a case between just the representative and the defendant or defendants.
At the end of the class action suit, if the plaintiffs win or obtain a settlement, then it should be shared among each of them. Often, there is a separate legal process for plaintiffs to claim their awards that might involve them getting their own lawyers.
How to join a class action suit?
The process for joining a class action suit depends on the suit itself. There is one aspect to it that some people find confusing. Frequently, it is not actually necessary to join a class action suit at the beginning or even in the middle. Instead, it will be possible to claim a settlement at the end if you can prove that you were among the parties affected by the legal event.
The reason for this is convenience. It would be difficult to find all the potential plaintiffs for a class action suit before the suit started, and waiting could mean that more damage takes place. Moreover, it would be unfair to some of those potential plaintiffs if they do not get to join the suit just because it wasn’t possible to find them in time for filing the initial case. As a result, most class action suits are structured such that anyone can join in once the outcome has been decided.
The typical process for this starts once there is a settlement or a judgement. At that time, lawyers will begin notifying potential plaintiffs of the fact that they may be eligible to receive a part of the award if they fulfill certain requirements. Essentially, you will get a letter that describes the case and contains some information about what you need to do in order to prove that you were harmed by the defendant.
Lawyers who work on these cases tend to send the letters out to as many people as possible because they want to be sure that they have found someone who is connected to the case. They will offer you a deal where they will help you claim your part of the award for some legal fees. This is a common arrangement because they can use their experience and skill to quickly determine if you qualify for the award and submit all the paperwork and documentation to ensure that you receive it.
You do not necessarily need the help of a lawyer to claim the award. If you have been harmed by the defendant in a way that makes you a plaintiff, then often you do not need to do much more than send in a form. The notification that you receive should provide the details of this process and how you can follow through with your submission.
What can you win in a class action lawsuit?
When the lawyers on both sides of a class action suit are making their cases, they do so with the understanding that the final award or settlement will be divided up among the plaintiffs. Many large corporations have a pool of money set aside for just such a scenario to ensure that they can pay the money in a timely manner. At the end of one of these cases, if the plaintiff wins, the judge will decide on the size of the award. After that, legal notices of the outcome will go out to potentially affected parties. The court will try to estimate how many people were affected by the case and might be plaintiffs. The money is meant to be divided equally among them.
This means that the award you win will depend on a couple of different things. First of all, the damage. The more damage the defendant did to the plaintiffs, the higher the award will be. Secondly, the number of plaintiffs. The more people were affected by the case, the less each of them will get because the money is divided among more people.
In some cases, the award will be small enough that it might not be worth the time to claim it. For example, some cases have awards that work out to be worth just a few dollars per plaintiff. In other cases, though the awards can be much higher, up into the thousands or more. This is why it is worth reading any class action notifications that you get in the mail. They should tell you how much you can expect to get if you are found to be a qualifying plaintiff when you file the right form.
A major class action lawsuit does not necessarily have the best awards. If a very large company made a mistake that harmed a lot of people to a small degree, then each plaintiff can expect a fairly small award. The larger awards tend to come from narrower cases that involve more harm being done to a smaller pool of people. The people involved in these cases often know about the lawsuit from early in the process, but the legal team will still send out notifications at the end.
How long does a class action lawsuit take?
As with any other legal action, it can be very hard to predict how long it will be until a class action lawsuit ends. The more time goes by, the larger the fees for the lawyers will be. As a result, there is an incentive to settle before going to court. This may happen if the defendant or defendants become worried that the case will drag on, raising their legal costs, or if they think they can get a better deal by settling quickly instead of going through a prolonged court case. Often the plaintiffs will also want to resolve the matter sooner rather than later so they can get access to their money more quickly. This is especially true if they will need the money for medical costs or other reparations. That might involve getting a smaller settlement in exchange for concluding the matter in a speedy time frame.
If the case does not get settled and winds up going to court, then the timeline for completing the entire process is likely to be measured in years. From start to finish, the gathering of evidence and witnesses, making arguments, filing motions, and going back and forth on how to measure the harm involved can take a long time. This might not involve a lot of time in an actual courtroom. Lawyers often spend most of their time in their offices preparing the case, doing research, and on other tasks. The court appearances are just the culmination of all that effort. In addition, the judges have other cases to oversee, so they can’t just call the lawyers in whenever they have something to discuss; the plaintiff and the defendant both have to work around the availability of the judge.
This can be frustrating to people who are waiting for the outcome, but the slow pace of the trial is meant to minimize mistakes and ensure that justice is done. It is particularly important to go slowly and carefully in cases that have a lot of complex technical details. The judge will want to make sure that they have a full understanding of everything they need to know in order to establish fault, harm, and other concepts. These are crucial for determining the outcome and the size of the award if the plaintiffs win. A typical class action lawsuit will end in two or three years, but some can take considerably longer if they are more technical.