When a significant number of individuals have all been affected by the same problem and their cases all point to the same responsible party – such as the manufacturer of a defective product, for example – the justice system allows individual lawsuits to be grouped into one single action. Learn how class actions and mass torts work and what to do if you believe you may have a claim.
What Is a Class Action?
A class action groups several individuals affected by the same plaintiff with the intent of streamlining the process of awarding the plaintiffs with damages compensation. In a class action, a single lawsuit is filed on behalf of the class (or group of plaintiffs).
The class is treated as one single plaintiff, and a class representative stands in for all class members. Likewise, once the case resolves, the final settlement is divided among the class members.
What Are the Requirements for a Class Action?
For a class action to take place, an individual must file a motion to be permitted to act on behalf of the class. The class needs to be composed of numerous individuals – and the number must be significant enough to make individual lawsuits impracticable.
The representative needs to be ready to protect the interests of the class members and should be prepared to demonstrate that their claims are equivalent to those of the rest of the class and fairly represent all members. All individuals in the class should be notified and given the option to opt out or to retain their own counsel.
What Is a Mass Tort?
When a group of plaintiffs has a claim against the same defendant, but their case does not fulfill the class action requirements, then a mass tort may be the next best option. In a class action, all plaintiffs must have suffered similar damages, whereas, in a mass tort, each plaintiff can be affected differently and sustain different damages.
Another key difference is that a mass tort is one single action with multiple plaintiffs who are treated separately and should each submit their own evidence to document their damages. Each plaintiff may seek a different amount. Payment of damages is made to each plaintiff rather than equally divided among the group.
How Do You Know if You Have a Claim?
Class actions and mass torts can be very complex and do not always follow legal standard procedure. If you believe you have a case or qualify to join a mass tort or a class action, your first step should be to speak to an attorney and discuss your case.