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

A class action lawsuit is a type of lawsuit where one person or multiple people, class representative(s), bring(s) a lawsuit and represent(s) the claims of all other individuals who are similarly situated to the class representative(s). Often times, people injured by a dangerous drug, dangerous medical device, consumer product or an individual shareholder in a corporation mistakenly thinks that the cases we handle are class actions. While we have extensive experience handling class action lawsuits, the dangerous drug, medical device, securities and whistleblower cases we handle typically are individual actions and not class actions. That is, liability and damages are proven on an individual basis and the damages awarded to our clients are awarded to them individually based on their unique circumstances.

A mass tort lawsuit is a civil action where many individuals, referred to as plaintiffs, allege that they have been wronged in similar ways by one or multiple defendants, who are the parties the plaintiffs are suing. A mass tort is different from a typical medical malpractice claim because, for example, a mass tort involves many plaintiffs while a malpractice claim involves only a single plaintiff. A mass tort is similar to a malpractice case in that the individual plaintiffs typically allege that the defendants engaged in a common course of conduct that injured them (e.g., the defendants failed to warn that its product could cause a heart attack). Importantly, a mass tort results in many individual actions being filed against the defendants whereas a class action only requires one individual to file a lawsuit on behalf of other individuals similarly situated.