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Mass Tort Litigation: Understand the Fundamentals

by | May 22, 2024 | Product liability

Every year in the United States, thousands of people die and, many others are harmed due to defective products and toxic pharmaceuticals. If you have been wounded by a defective product, you are not alone; there will be others who have experienced the same situation. When a large number of people file lawsuits for identical damages caused by the same product, the case is referred to be a mass tort. Attorneys who are well-versed in mass torts law will help you with your claim.

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Mass Tort 

An illegal action of one or few defendants causing injuries or damages to multiple plaintiffs is called mass tort. Each plaintiff maintains a separate lawsuit. All the members from the same groups are treated as individual plaintiffs and, they seek compensation separately. Here single action of the defendant such as intentional behavior, negligence, or recklessness affects numerous people.

The instances have been so severe on mass tort. let us take a look at the subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson, facing mass tort litigation. They are legally settling the claims against Risperidol. The mass tort on talc verdict gave no ease but gave away millions to the affected. They failed to give proper warning to the mass about its potential health risk which, inflicted a grave mass tort in the decade.

The injury or harm may be due to failed medical devices, defective products, and dangerous drugs. Examples of these cases are baby formula, talcum powder, Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) filters, Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI), surgical staplers, asbestos mesothelioma, etc.

Mass Tort vs Class Action 

Both mass tort and class action lawsuits are handled differently, yet they both provide the same result.

Mass Tort Litigation

  • It may include a single defendant or multiple defendants. Victims seek compensation for their similar type of injury due to the same event, separately.
  • In these lawsuits, the number of people damaged is often less than in the larger class actions.
  • Even though they are part of a big group, each victim is treated individually in this lawsuit.
  • Here each plaintiff from the group should prove the fact of the case and how the defendant’s actions harm the plaintiff.
  • This lawsuit is complicated than a class action.
  • It doesn’t need certification.
  • A mass tort case can take a long time to resolve.

Class Action Litigation

  • In a class action, victims seek compensation for their similar type of injury or the same damage due to the same occurrence as a group.
  • If the court approves the class action, the court will notify all possible class members to make sure each claimant with the same or similar injuries can join in the claim.
  • In class-action lawsuits, the number of people damaged is higher than in mass tort cases.
  • Here the plaintiffs from a large group are treated as a class. From the group, the class representative stands in for the rest of the group. Everyone from the group is considered a single plaintiff.
  • The whole class is considered as a single victim and, the class legal representative must prove the fact of the claim and how the defendant’s actions harm the plaintiff.
  • The class action is simple compared to mass tort.
  • Class action needs certification.
  • A class-action lawsuit can take less time to resolve compared to mass tort.

Mass Tort Process

Mass tort attorneys review all the details about your injuries such as medical records, medical bills, and other expenses incurred as a result of your injuries, and evidence related to your damages or injuries. Then they review other plaintiffs’ details and shreds of evidence who harmed from the same defective product or dangerous drugs. Next, they examine the similarity of the injuries or damages. After comparing the similarity of the injuries from all the plaintiffs suffered from the same product, or drugs if the injuries are similar, the lawyer will proceed with filing the lawsuit against the corporation.

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The attorneys will file the lawsuit in federal court as multidistrict litigation (MDL). This MDL helps shorten the time it takes for each complaint to be processed. A small group of lawsuits chosen from a broader group of similar cases will proceed to bellwether trials. At last, the attorneys will try to negotiate with opposition parties to get a settlement. If the other parties did not agree with the fair compensation, the case goes to court for trial.

Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in Mass Tort 

MDL is an excellent way to manage the mass torts litigation process. Multidistrict litigation is a legal process, and it occurs when more lawsuits are filed in federal court by individuals separately. Multidistrict litigation is created by the federal government. It uses to manage complicated and lengthy claims, where numerous people are affected by one defendant. In multidistrict litigation, federal cases from all over the country are consolidated in one court.

The objective of multidistrict litigation is efficiency as well as economy. Some examples of civil cases that are combined into MDL are Product liability cases when more than hundreds of people are affected by defective products, dangerous drugs, etc. If the plaintiffs don’t get the settlement amount that they deserve in the multidistrict litigation process, then the case will go to trial at court.

Bellwether Trials in Mass Tort

A smaller group of plaintiffs from a large group participates in bellwether trials. These plaintiffs are utilized as test cases in an attempt to predict the outcome of future litigation. A bellwether trial is used in mass torts claim act, where a large number of people are harmed or injured by the same dangerous drugs or defective medical equipment.

Bellwether trials are conducted by multidistrict litigation. In mass torts litigation, bellwether cases are model jury trials used to see how juries react to the evidence and arguments. The plaintiff gets the chance to present the evidence and focus their claims for the successful claim in the court. Both plaintiffs and defendants get an idea of how the juries will react in the particular case.

Types of Mass Tort

The types of mass tort lawsuits are dangerous drugs, failed medical devices, defective products, and toxic contamination.


Defective Product Mass Tort

When the consumer uses a defective product manufactured by some corporation or company and is injured due to the defective product will be eligible to sue the defendant. The best example of a defective product is 3M earplugs. 3M earplugs are designed and manufactured by Aearo technologies Inc. and, it was purchased by the multinational conglomerate 3M Company. They supplied the 3M combat arms earplugs to the U.S military. The 3M Company supplied this earplug to the military from 2003 to 2015.

The combat arms earplug is dual-ended and nonlinear. It was designed to provide warriors two options depending on how they wore it. It has a distinct effect depending on which side is utilized. When the user inserts the olive-colored end into the ear, all external noises are blocked and, hearing protection is provided. It is similar to regular earplugs. When a yellow color is inserted into the ear it lowers heavy background noise and allows the user to hear low-level noises such as footsteps and speech.

Due to the dangerous design defect, the users were harmed by hearing loss and tinnitus. More soldiers sued the company that designed the defective product. The company agreed to pay $9.1 million since they provide faulty products. They stopped providing earplugs but, they didn’t recall the defective product. Here is no particular mass tort settlement amount in these cases. The settlement amount will be awarded based on the damages of the plaintiffs.

Dangerous Drugs Mass Tort

Pharmaceutics firms have a great deal of power. The list of ingredients provided by pharmaceutics corporations or manufacturers may not be accurate. The drugs or medication companies must clearly state the dosage and side effects when they market the drugs. When they fail to do so, innocent people will be affected when they use a particular product.

Drug prescription side effects include liver failure, heart attack, and other serious complications. It’s U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) responsibility to examine and approve the pharmaceutical drugs before they come to market. Pharmaceutical injuries are almost the same for all the plaintiffs. So there is a chance for numerous people to file many similar cases in a single court.

The cosmetic items also must be labeled with proper side effects and, they should not have asbestos content. Asbestos content in cosmetic products may lead to cancer. The Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrances Association (CTFA) released guidelines that state that all talc used in cosmetic products should be asbestos-free in the United States.

An example is talcum powder. Talcum powder is made of talc, which includes magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. Naturally, talc contains asbestos. Using talcum powder often causes ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and lungs cancer.

When women use talc for feminine hygiene they are increasing their risk of ovarian cancer. More than a thousand lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson baby Powder Company and, they had agreed to pay a $100 million settlement.

Opioids are another example of a medication that has been prescribed incorrectly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70% of persons died in 2019 from drug overdoses, including opioids. It’s a narcotic pain reliever. When used for a short amount of time, opioids are considered safe. Instead of prescribing it for short-term usage, doctors began to instruct it more frequently. In 2013, the range of prescriptions increased by over 250 million.

Drug companies paid doctors to promote opioid usage that was not approved by the FDA. Many people believe that drug companies are to be blamed for the opioid problem because they promoted opioid drugs through elaborate marketing tactics. Countless Americans have succumbed to addiction. As a result, it affected a more number of Americans.

Defective Medical Device Mass Tort

An example of a defective medical device is an IVC filter. Its purpose is to keep blood clots from migrating from the legs to the lungs and creating a pulmonary embolism. It is placed in the inferior vena cava to prevent blood clots. IVC has life-threatening complications. The complexity includes clogging of the filter, deep vein thrombosis, filter fracture, MRI complications, and device migration. When the plaintiff experiences migration, he or she may need to do open heart surgery or other procedures.

The filters themselves may create clots due to which the filter migrates from one place to another. While moving, it causes fractures in the inner organs. The manufacturer failed to inform about the dangers to the doctors. As a result of this, many patients were affected severely. More cases were filed across the United States over severe injuries and death.

Mostly the plaintiffs sued against three IVC manufacturers include Bard, cook medical, and Boston Scientific. The victims can recover both the economic damages and non-economic damages. In Arizona, the claims were settled at $3.6 million for a woman who sued against bard for her fracture due to an IVC filter. It’s very complex to stand alone to sue in this litigation.

In this litigation, the plaintiffs can receive compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and future medical bills. Getting assistance from a mass tort lawyer helps you get a fair settlement for your case. Attorney will review your medical records and all the evidence to handle your claim successfully. They give the medical records to medical review service companies like us to ease their process of handling the case. Expert medical record reviews can help the victims reflect their damages sustained by the product defect and get the maximum compensation.

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