When negligence causes an injury, the injured party may decide to sue. If many people are injured in a similar manner, caused by the same defective product or negligent behavior, this may be considered a mass tort. In other words, a mass tort is a wrongful action affecting numerous people – similar, but different in important aspects, from a class action. Litigating hundreds or thousands of individual lawsuits against the same party is time-consuming and often inefficient. Mass tort practice allows the court system to streamline the process by consolidating multiple victims’ lawsuits into one centralized courtroom.
Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is a process often used to facilitate mass tort claims. MDL practice involves assigning similar cases to the same judge, with the goal of improving judicial efficiency, and ultimately achieving the best outcome for all parties. MDLs may also include bellwether trials, also known as test cases. These trials give the plaintiffs and defendants an idea of how a jury might perceive the evidence, and thus guide settlement discussions.
Mass torts often fall into three categories: defective or dangerous products, defective medical devices or drugs, and toxic exposure. Even if a company or manufacturer isn’t aware that its product is dangerous, it can still be held liable if a plaintiff can prove that it should have known of the risk.