Class-action lawsuits get a lot of attention because they allow an entire group of people to join a lawsuit filed by a single person. Similarly, mass torts allow a group of people to file individual lawsuits against a single liable entity. While the term “mass tort” may sound unfamiliar, you may have seen commercials for several mass tort cases.
What is a Mass Tort?
A mass tort lawsuit occurs when a large group of unrelated people seeks compensation against the same entity for different reasons. For example, some people who used defective earplugs will develop tinnitus, while others have lost their hearing altogether. A mass tort is formed because the compensation for these cases is very different and, unlike a class-action case, no single person represents everyone.
Mass torts are relatively new in the legal world. The first case appeared in the 1970s against the manufacturer of agent orange. This opened the door for the category of mass tort lawsuits. In time, there would be similar kinds of lawsuits against asbestos, the tobacco industry, and several drug manufacturers.
If you’ve ever seen a commercial asking if you were impacted by asbestos, pelvic mesh, or name-brand drugs, you’ve witnessed a mass tort campaign, not a class-action lawsuit.
Mass Tort vs. Class-Action Lawsuit
Mass torts are quite different from class-action lawsuits. In a class-action case, an entire group of people has the option to either accept a legal representative or opt-out. The key to a class-action lawsuit, and how it differs from a mass tort, is that a class-action case is a single lawsuit brought forward by one claimant.
For example, in the famous Brown vs. The Board of Education, Oliver Brown formed a class-action lawsuit for all African Americans impacted by school segregation. Brown hired his own attorneys and made the claims, but was representing a whole class of people, making it a class-action case. Moreover, the class in question suffered an identical injustice.
Generally, mass torts are used for product liability cases where everyone is impacted differently. Class-action cases are used when an entity causes a distinct group of people a similar kind of pain and suffering.
Legal representation is also a key difference. In a class-action case, the group is represented by “the lead plaintiff,” the person whose name is on the lawsuit. This person is responsible for the entire group and must hire an attorney, file the lawsuit, and make the final decision on a settlement.
In a mass tort, people impacted by the case can work with an attorney of their choosing. Networks of lawyers can share their findings with others, helping claimants across the country receive their just compensation.
Who is Eligible for Mass Torts?
Every mass tort case is different. Each has specific criteria to determine eligibility. However, the general idea is the same. Mass tort eligibility is usually of a mixture of using a particular product within a set time frame and, as a result, experiencing a range of symptoms consistent with others who report issues with the same product.
Relevant Mass Torts in 2019
While some mass torts, such as asbestos exposure, have run for decades, others are just becoming relevant this year. Below is a small list of mass torts cases relevant in 2019.
· 3M Combat Earplugs: These defective earplugs failed to form a seal inside the wearer’s ear, resulting in tinnitus and hearing damage in armed forces members.
· Talcum Powder: Johnson & Johnson talcum powder used for feminine hygiene has been linked to ovarian cancer. New evidence also suggests the J&J talcum powder may have been contaminated with asbestos, resulting in mesothelioma.
· Roundup: Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been linked to several types of blood cancer. Monsanto already paid out billions as a result of illnesses caused by Roundup exposure.
· Pelvic Mesh: Defective mesh products may shrink and lose structural integrity or become infused with scar tissue, causing infection and other ailments.
If you or someone you love were negatively impacted by products involved in a mass tort case, you have options. If you’d like an experienced Mississippi mass tort attorney to review your case, please call Thomas W. Brock at (601) 202-9744 or send us an email.