Advocate Law Group
Advocate Law Group’s partners and members of the Advocate Law Group Network have had significant experience and success in class action and mass tort litigation, holding major corporations that have harmed hundreds to tens of thousands of Americans because of dangerous medical devices, dangerous drugs, defective consumer products, and deceptive banking and insurance company practices accountable and recovering huge sums for the people harmed by the businesses’ bad practices.
What both class action cases and mass torts cases have in common is that a large number of people typically have been harmed by the same thing – whether a dangerous drug, a defective consumer product or medical device, improper actions of a bank, insurance company, manufacturer, retailer or other firm. Despite this similarity, however, these two types of lawsuits are substantially different with respect to other factors including their respective court procedures and the kinds of cases they are designed to handle.
A “tort” is a civil wrong, and a mass torts involve the situation in which (like a class action) the damage also impacts many people in the same way. However, in a mass tort a defective product or dangerous drug or deceptive practice may have dramatically different impacts on different people.
Unlike in the class action situation, where everybody was essentially harmed to the same extent, in a mass tort each individual who was harmed might may have sustained dramatically different damages. For example, a defectively manufactured car tire may have ruptured and caused a series of separate auto crashes that killed or seriously injured a dozen people, and injured scores more, and also caused significant property damage as well. But not all the defective tires have yet ruptured and caused crashes, and many such tires are still on the road, and the recovery for the person who dies or was seriously injured, should be far greater than for the person who merely has to replace the defective (but not yet ruptured) tire.
Yet each would be entitled to bring a tort case. A tort is an act omission that causes injury or harm to another, resulting in legal liability for the party that committed the act. Mass tort lawsuits function by grouping many individual tort cases together under the reasoning that this process is more efficient and that each case involves many of the same issues and concerns.
In a mass tort, although each individual plaintiff holds that they were harmed by the same act, the extent to which they were harmed often differs widely from plaintiff to plaintiff. For example, let’s say the mass tort at hand is against a drug manufacturer for selling a dangerous drug that has been known to cause vision problems. While every plaintiff in this mass tort lawsuit is claiming they were harmed through the same act (in this case, by taking a dangerous drug), the extent to which they were harmed varies greatly (some plaintiffs will have experienced minor vision loss, while others will have become completely blind). Thus, in mass tort litigation, individual plaintiffs are largely treated separately (for purposes of resolving the case and determining damages) but are handled together for purposes of discovering whether or not the product.
Mass torts tend to advance through the courts as a multidistrict litigation (MDL) that is consolidated in a single Federal court for purposes of discovery. This consolidation enables the suit to move through the court system more expeditiously. By bringing together many different cases, evidence can be shared amongst the entire lawsuit. Unlike class actions, MDL’s require each plaintiff to file a claim. Mass tort lawsuits can end in a couple of different ways. If the case is settled as a group, then each plaintiff can make a decision about whether to partake in this settlement. Group settlements typically are constructed such that damages are distributed in proportion to the harm each plaintiff faced (so the plaintiff that lost her vision would recover more than the plaintiff that only needed stronger reading glasses). If a plaintiff chooses against participating in the settlement, they still can take their case to trial.
Class actions, like mass torts, are lawsuits composed of individual plaintiffs who claim to be harmed through the same action. However, unlike mass torts, in class action lawsuits the group of plaintiffs is treated as a single ‘class,’ whereby a single claim is filed for the entire class and a member of this class (the representative) will stand for all of the classes’ members. As a result, in a class action lawsuit every plaintiff is treated essentially the same. When a settlement or verdict is reached for class action cases, the damages are (generally, equally) split among all members of the class.
Whereas the design of mass torts lends itself to cases where the harm done to each plaintiff varies widely from case to case, class actions are thus more appropriate for cases when the harm done is relatively equal for each plaintiff. Additionally, class action lawsuits are ideal for handling situations where a company manufactures a product or does something wrong that harms many people, but only to a small extent, such that it would not make economic sense for any one individual to bring a lawsuit (because the costs would far exceed amount they could hope to recover). In these situations, class actions can both make the lawsuit worth the expenditure and also hold the company accountable for its wrongdoing.
For instance, one of the biggest ever class actions lawsuits was against Volkswagen, after the carmaker was shown to have lied about the emissions of its diesel cars. Volkswagen had programmed their diesel cars to cheat during emissions tests so they could mislead the public about the emissions ratings of their diesel vehicles. Once this was discovered, the value of these vehicles plummeted – anyone who owned a diesel Volkswagen thus lost money (in their car’s value) because of the company’s illegal actions. In this case, a class action made sense because everyone was faced roughly the same harm and it was the best way to hold the company accountable. If, on the other hand, all these plaintiffs tried to take on Volkswagen individually, the case would most likely not be worth it; virtually everyone lost less than $10,000 as a result of the scandal and facing off against a major company like Volkswagen would almost certainly cost much more than that. Ultimately, the case was resolved in 2016 when a judge approved a $14.7 billion settlement that provided funds for vehicle buybacks at valuations prior to the emissions scandal and additional payments for anyone who owned one of these vehicles.
How We Can help
Advocate Law Group and attorneys in the Advocate Law Group network work on mass tort cases and we lend our expertise for class actions lawsuits across the country. Advocate’s unique skillset and expertise in insurance enables our clients to benefit, and our Network firms often take a leading role in handling these cases. In many class actions and mass tort lawsuits, the wrongdoer has purchased insurance. Lawyers litigating these cases thus have to deal with the company at fault and their insurance company and reinsurers as well. This is where Advocate truly shines. Advocate Law Group’s knowledge as to how insurance companies operate helps our clients achieve better results faster. If you think you are eligible to participate in a class action or mass tort lawsuit, contact us for a free consultation.
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The attorneys in the Advocate Law Group network bring decades of real-world experience in both law and insurance.