Class action lawsuits and mass tort cases share many of the same attributes, but they are not quite the same. It is possible for class action lawsuits and mass torts to be filed around the same incident, but they are not to be confused as being identical to each other. As to how they are different, let’s discuss that in proper detail next.
Mass Tort Cases
A regular tort can be defined as a civil injury claim, which is quite different from a criminal injury case. There must be criminal intent to cause harm for an incident to be filed as a criminal injury lawsuit, but that’s not how tort cases work. A tort case is filed when the accused party is held responsible for causing one or more injuries through acts of negligence and/or omission.
When a neglectful act such as that harms and injures multiple victims on a massive scale, the ensuing lawsuits are collectively called mass tort cases. One of the most prominent examples of mass tort cases in recent years would be the infamous Beach Park Illinois Chemical Spill lawsuits, which were filed after the gas leak physically harmed hundreds of residents, bystanders, and even emergency responders in 2019.
Class Action Lawsuit
The main reason why class action lawsuits are generally confused with mass tort cases is that the two will often be filed around the same incident. However, there is one big difference that separates class action lawsuits from mass torts. Every class action lawsuit consists of just one case against the defendant that combines the grievances and demands of multiple claimants into a single, unified front.
Is One Better than the Other?
The answer is both yes and no, so it needs more explanation. Mass tort cases and class action lawsuits have their own respective places in the legal system, so neither is better than the other in general. At the same time, it also means that some situations benefit more from a mass tort case, whereas other incidents are better suited for class action lawsuits.
Therefore, one can indeed be a better option than the other, depending on the incident’s details. These are not two competing systems, but tools of the legal trade that should be chosen at the prosecuting attorney’s discretion.
Common Advantages and Disadvantages
Mass torts allow for more flexibility as it leaves room for different claims to be filed, depending on the differing levels of injury/harm suffered by the claimants. This flexibility also allows more people to get involved in the mass tort, thus strengthening the case’s merit. In a mass tort case, there is no need for harmonizing all victims under a single umbrella case.
Class action lawsuits are more focused, organized, and unified by default, but they have their limitations as well. For example, everyone included in a class action lawsuit will need to file any claim for suffering the same or very similar harm on account of the incident. The group must choose a representative plaintiff, who will be cited as being representative of the harm/injuries suffered by the rest.