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What is a Mass Tort?

A “mass tort” is a civil case that involves many different plaintiffs who are all suing one or a few defendants for similar reasons. These cases are given their namesake due to the high number of people involved, as well as the common use of mass media to create awareness of the issue and recruit more plaintiffs. Though they can be incredibly complex, mass torts can lead to colossal settlements being reached on behalf of the negatively affected parties.

What Are Some Commonly Filed Mass Torts?

Typically, these cases are created in reaction to product liability issues, man-made disasters, or toxic chemical exposures. A few examples of eligible claims include:

  • Harmful prescription drugs
  • Defective or dangerous products
  • Airplane crashes
  • Poisonous building materials like asbestos

A real-life example of a mass tort case would be the famous case brought against Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in 1993, as dramatized in the film Erin Brockovich. After three years of litigation against the company for the contamination of local drinking water which led to serious illnesses, the case was eventually settled for $333 million in favor of the residents of Hinkley, California.

Class action lawsuits are subset of mass torts, though not all mass torts are class action lawsuits. In the case of a class action lawsuit, the courts are allowed to decide all claims via a single decision, treating the whole issue as one case. If a settlement is reached, the recovered damages are split evenly between the plaintiffs. Class action lawsuits are used if the plaintiffs have been affected by the actions of the defendant in the same “class” or similar manner.

Since the types of effects that a toxic exposure or faulty drug can have are vast, the lawsuits that are filed in reaction can span several different classes. Therefore, these cases must be handled uniquely with the collaboration of several different personal injury lawyers. An investigation conducted by one attorney can be permitted to be shared between several different cases, and a network of personal injury lawyers can pool resources to advocate for fair settlements for each individual client. Depending on the severity of the effects, some plaintiffs may be entitled to larger settlements than others.

If you believe you have a case that may be considered part of a mass tort, you need to retain the services of an experienced and dedicated New York City personal injury attorney. Lurie, Ilchert, MacDonnell & Ryan LLP is ready to help you hold negligent parties responsible and seek to recover damages on your behalf.

Call (646) 461-4009 to get started towards retaining trusted and effective legal representation.