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Understanding The Difference Between Mass Torts And Class-Action Suits

Mass torts and class actions for environmental claims and product liability are among the most complex types of litigation. Often, defendants will claim that other parties either have ultimate liability or shared liability for damages. Successfully representing clients in mass tort litigation requires an in-depth understanding of state and federal tort law, local regulatory law and general case law regarding recent decisions under similar circumstances.

Class Action Suits and Mass Torts: What’s the Difference?

Class Action Suits

A class action suit is a lawsuit in which one plaintiff is designated to represent a large group of people that were affected by the same set of circumstances, and share the same injuries or negative consequences. Class action suits are intended to declutter the court system but taking a large number of the essentially the same case and tying them all into the same case. That way, the courts aren’t clogged up dealing with the same problem over and over again.

One of the best examples of a class action suit is the case against German car manufacturer, Volkswagen (VW). VW recently settled their U.S. emissions lawsuit, after it was found that their vehicles were emitting 40 times more emissions than what’s allowed by the U.S. government. Here at Rhine Law Firm, P.C., we helped many customers that were affected by this class action suit. Find out more about that case here, and if you believe you’re still owed damages pertaining to this particular VW defect, call us toll-free at (866) 772-9060 for a free initial consultation.

Another good example of a class action suit was the Hello Barbie lawsuit against Mattel, one of the biggest toy manufacturers in the country. In this lawsuit, a number of Hello Barbie dolls (a Barbie that talks and interacts with children) were hacked, allowing the hackers access to private information stored online including account numbers, credit card numbers and in some cases, even access to the doll’s microphone. That lawsuit started with two mothers, but has now turned into a massive class action suit that involves families all around the country.

Class action suits have many different aspects, and plaintiffs must be prepared to meet several different criteria when filing this type of lawsuit. These requirements and criteria are:

  • Every individual involved in the “class” (group of people filing the lawsuit) must be told about the lawsuit and given the choice to remain within the class, or seek their own private counsel.
  • Before the lawsuit is filed, a court motion must be filed allowing one plaintiff to represent the entire class.
  • That plaintiff must be able to prove that their situation, and the resulting injuries or damages, are typical of other people within the case.
  • The compensation or damages being sought must not be worth the time and effort of each individual hiring their own attorneys.

Mass Torts

Mass torts are sometimes mistaken for class action lawsuits by those wishing to file a lawsuit, because the two do hold some similarities. Like class action lawsuits for instance, mass torts are also designed to reduce the number of cases clogging up the already-packed court system. Other than that however, mass torts are different than class action suits.

While class action lawsuits typically deal with the same problem experienced by a number of people, mass torts deal with a broader range of claim types, typically dealing with product liability and consumer products and recalls. Because these types of cases can affect people very differently, the cases as a group do not typically fit into a single class, as class action suits do.

In the case of mass torts, one personal injury attorney, or several, can handle the case, but often the plaintiffs will choose to hire their own attorney. The benefit to this is that any evidence found by one attorney can be shared with all other attorneys working on the same mass tort.

Because they deal with many different plaintiffs, damages, and amounts of compensation, mass torts are much more complicated than class action suits, and they take much longer to settle in court.

Should I Join in a Class Action, or File My Own Case Privately?

There are advantages to filing with a class action, but they also have their downsides. Mainly, they take a long time in court and the members of the class often have very little control over how things are handled, or what settlement they receive. This leaves many injured parties wondering if they should take part in a class action, or file their own case privately.

The answer really lies in what type of settlement you think you’ll get. Of course, here at Rhine Law Firm, P.C., we’re always striving to get the utmost compensation available for our clients. But sometimes, even when the case is argued perfectly and won, the amount of that settlement is very small. And when that’s the case, it might be more worthwhile to go with a class action rather than a private lawsuit.

For instance, if a doctor was overcharging their patients with every bill, making up for approximately $100 in damages sought, the time and effort it would take to hire an attorney and go through the court systems just isn’t worth it. Clients would be spending thousands of dollars in order to get the $100 in compensation that they seek. However, by joining a class action suit, those same clients can contribute a small amount of the attorney’s cost, and still get their full compensation.

Whether or not you join a class action is a personal decision, and one that you’ll have to make after weighing out all the options for your case. Typically however, the rule of thumb is that if you’re only going to get a small amount of damages and a class action lawsuit is available, they’re typically the better choice. If however, you’ve suffered significant injuries that are eligible for significant compensation, and those injuries are very different than the injuries suffered by others in the suit, you’ll probably be better off filing a private lawsuit of your own.

Attorney Joel Rhine Represents Plaintiffs In Mass Tort Litigation

Attorney Joel Rhine has been one of the most recognized trial lawyers in the Wilmington area for more than 27 years. He will thoroughly review your case and aggressively work to protect your rights and financial interests. He has the experience and capacity to serve as lead plaintiff counsel or co-counsel with knowledge of the local court process and courts.

We have trial experience in class-action and mass tort litigation involving:

Whether you are an individual plaintiff or are seeking a professional referral relationship, Rhine Law Firm, P.C., in Wilmington offers a no-cost consultation and case evaluation.

If you are an attorney seeking a professional referral relationship, are part of a class-action litigation matter or need professional trial counsel in any personal injury, environmental or civil litigation matter in North Carolina, call us toll free at (866) 772-9960 or locally at (910) 772-9960 or use the convenient email contact form to request a return phone call. Office hours 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Evening and weekend appointments also available.

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Contact Rhine Law Firm, P.C., at (910) 772-9960 or (866) 772-9960 toll free for a free initial consultation. Evening and weekend appointments upon request. Office hours 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Evening and weekend appointments also available. We also offer Spanish interpretation and translation services.

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