Mass Tort Law

The civil justice system provides a way of addressing disputes between two or more parties that cannot be resolved in any other way except in a court of law. An important category of litigation arises when someone either acts or fails to act in a way that harms another physically, emotionally or socially. This harm or injury is known in legal terminology as a tort.

A specialized category of tort is Mass Tort, which arises from large-scale events involving significant numbers of people. How common are mass torts, and how are they usually resolved in court? Every case is different, but the team at De Castroverde Law, which serves clients in Las Vegas and across Nevada, has put together this short guide to mass torts law.

What Are Mass Torts?

Lawsuit - Mass Tort Law

The complexity of mass torts is based on their size and scope. Mass torts generally involve incidents that affect large numbers of people, such as plane crashes, environmental contamination, catastrophic construction accidents, and mass shootings. These incidents involve allegations against a common set of defendants, who may be people or organizations.

Mass tort cases typically lead to legal proceedings known as multidistrict litigation. Courts have the authority to consolidate cases involving common questions of law and fact before a single federal district to adjudicate on legal issues before trial. Cases are designated for assignment as multidistrict litigation by filing a motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another common way of handling mass tort cases is through class action lawsuits. In a class action, one or more plaintiffs represent the larger group of people who experienced harm. The class action is resolved as a single piece of litigation if it meets certain legal criteria.

The difference between multidistrict mass torts and class action mass torts lies in how they are resolved. Individual claims in multidistrict matters return to their home jurisdictions for trial. The resolution of a class action lawsuit applies to all members of the class, regardless of their individual locations.

Types of Mass Tort Lawsuits

Mass tort litigation typically involves acts or omissions that demonstrate recklessness or negligence on the part of defendants. Consequently, a mass tort case can involve many different types of claims. Below are the categories of cases that lead to mass tort litigation.

Products Liability

Our economy largely depends on the manufacture and sale of different products, whether to individuals or organizations. Sometimes, products reach the market with defects, either from their manufacture or design. If those defects cause harm, the person who experiences an injury may have grounds to file a products liability lawsuit. Plaintiffs can also bring cases under theories of strict liability, meaning they do not need to prove recklessness, negligence, or intent.

These suits can include claims that the product defects resulted from recklessness or negligence or that the manufacturer failed to provide proper instructions on how to use the product safely, or warnings of potential side effects. Many product liability cases emerge from problems with children’s toys and pharmaceuticals. Drug-related cases can also stem from allegations that the associated marketing was deceptive or incomplete.

In addition to toys and medication, many product liability cases center on motor vehicles, electronics, machinery, food products, and construction equipment.

Exposure to Toxic Substances

Another common source of mass tort lawsuits involves instances where people are exposed to certain toxins. These cases are typically among some of the most complicated instances of litigation because they involve extensive scientific and expert testimony on issues of whether the exposure caused the injury.

Exposure to toxins can occur in various ways. For example, employees in manufacturing roles may experience health problems from breathing in certain solvents, toxic mold, or asbestos. Environmental litigation can also trigger mass tort litigation, such as if groundwater contamination leads to harmful health effects in a concentrated neighborhood.

Catastrophic Accidents or Events

When groups of people are injured or killed in accidents or other tragic events, they and their survivors may also be able to initiate mass tort litigation. A major example of this is the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which resulted in many different types of litigation involving airlines, property owners, and others parties. This litigation was active in the federal court system for over a decade.

However, events do not have to involve thousands of victims to result in mass tort litigation. A plane crash or multi-victim car accident, the aftermath of a hurricane, or a major gas or oil spill can all be subjects of mass tort litigation.

Premises Liability

Under certain circumstances, injuries on someone else’s property due to defects, recklessness, or negligence can also result in mass tort litigation. Typically, though, premises liability cases fall into other categories, such as slip-and-fall incidents in bathrooms or other public places, trips on poorly maintained sidewalks, or swimming pool injuries. If an incident injures many people, such as if a crane collapses on a construction site or a balcony railing gives way, it could also lead to mass tort litigation.

Mass Tort Cases in the News

Mass tort cases have become common, with the largest cases capturing extensive news media attention. A few examples are highlighted below.

  • Earplug litigation: Thousands of U.S. Army soldiers claim they suffered hearing damage from faulty earplugs.
  • Roundup litigation: More than 11,000 plaintiffs alleged that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer led them to develop cancer.
  • Hernia mesh litigation: Hernia patients claim they suffered complications from using hernia mesh devices to protect the tissue following hernia surgery.

De Castroverde Law Group and its experienced team of personal injury lawyers are ready to help you with your injury, product liability, premises liability, and general liability claims. Our team, representing clients in Las Vegas, Reno, and other parts of Nevada, handles all personal injury cases, including car, truck, and taxicab accidents, boating and aircraft incidents, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse and neglect, and other claims. Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us evaluate the facts and evidence of your case.

Photo Credit: Lawsuit by Kevin Smith is licensed with CC by 2.0