A mass tort is a series of civil claims or lawsuits brought by a series of plaintiffs, claiming similar injuries, against one or a few defendants. A mass tort differs from a class action. While both mass tort claims and class actions involve a large number of people who have suffered a similar type of harm, they are different in several important respects. In a mass tort action, each individual plaintiff has an individual claim with distinct damages, which may go to trial if the case is not settled. In contrast, in a class action, the claims are generally not considered individually, and any settlement or jury verdict is split among all members of the class. Most mass tort litigations in the United States involve injuries stemming from dangerous drugs, defective medical devices, or products liability.
When enough lawsuits are filed, the cases are often consolidated into a “multidistrict litigation” or MDL. Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is the process of streamlining complex civil lawsuits that arise out of the same course of conduct – like mass tort cases and products liability claims – by consolidating them into a single federal district court for pretrial proceedings.
The MDL court usually decides issues common to all the cases, such as admissibility of expert witness testimony, and controls the sharing information between the defendant(s) and the plaintiffs (a process called “discovery”). The court will select a few individual cases that will be prepared for trial, and ultimately may be tried to a jury. The outcome of these “bellwether” cases can help both sides evaluate the merits of their legal and factual claims, and thus move the parties toward a negotiated settlement. Most mass tort settlements will result in a specific offer being made to each plaintiff, who will be given the choice to accept or reject the offer. If a plaintiff rejects the offer, his or her case will move forward with the litigation process. Unfortunately, this entire process generally takes many years to reach a conclusion.
Summers and Johnson is involved in a number of current mass tort litigations. Although we are based in Missouri, we represent clients in these lawsuits across the United States. Currently, we are working on cases involving the following devices and products:
This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits. Attorneys David Summers and Aaron Johnson are licensed in Missouri and Kansas; however our attorneys have handled cases nationwide, including mass tort claims that are filed in federal courts.* Always consult your doctor before making any change in medication.
* In order to represent clients in states where the attorneys are not licensed, they must be granted admission pro hac vice or associate with local counsel.