Class Action vs. Mass Tort Action

It’s not every day that companies agree to pay millions of dollars in compensation to consumers or clients. Class action settlements of this magnitude are often historic and usually a matter of huge public interest. If a person suffers an injury because of a defective product or service – and others have suffered similarly because of the company’s negligence – they can choose to proceed with either a class action or mass tort action lawsuit. For example, the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of the 90’s was one of the largest class action lawsuits to date, ringing in at a staggering $206 billion.

With these types of cases capturing the public eye, most people are pretty familiar with class action lawsuits. But this isn’t the only legal recourse for these types of cases; an alternative to a Class Action is a Mass Tort, and we explain the difference in this article. While Mass Tort action cases find their way into the newspapers less frequently, they too may provide an excellent legal option for victims. It largely comes down to the individual, and the desired outcome whether a Class Action or Mass Tort action is the right choice. Each type of legal action comes with certain advantages or disadvantages, depending on the case. At Litco Law, we’ve taken a special interest in Personal Injury law for over 45 years, recently joining forces with Howie, Sacks, & Henry LLP (HSH) to work together to achieve justice for people who have been injured as a result of negligence.

Class Action 101

As you might have gathered from television and the media, a class action lawsuit typically involves of a group of people who collectively sue a company, manufacturer, retailer, employer, government, or financial institution for injuries suffered as a result of wrongdoing or negligence. All class action lawsuits are brought on by a specific trigger event, such as injuries caused by a defective product or service. This could range from injuries caused by products such as talcum powder having possible links to cancer to injuries caused by an event such as an airplane crash. In class action lawsuits, a single person must step forward as the face of the group of those injured – this person becomes the Representative Plaintiff for the case. Before a class action can proceed the courts generally want to see 5 things:

  1. A cause of action, such as negligent behavior that would allow the Plaintiff to sue.

  2. A definable class of people who were all affected.

  3. The definable class all have similar legal or factual issues.

  4. An indication that a class action is the best way for the Plaintiffs to pursue their claims.

  5. The Representative Plaintiff represents the interests of all the class members, for example, in the case of defective medication that caused similar injuries to many people, that entire group and their interests could be represented by one person.

In most cases, if these 5 criteria are met, a court will likely certify a class action, which is another way of saying they will allow it to proceed. Once the court certifies the class action, a notice is sent to all potential members of the class to ensure that anyone with similar injuries can join the lawsuit. Keep in mind, that by joining the class action the person forfeits their right to pursue individual action unless they provide written confirmation that they wish to opt-out. When the action is resolved – whether by settlement or trial – everyone in that class is bound by that resolution. The funds from the settlement are then distributed according to the category into which each person falls, which depends on such factors as the severity of their injuries.

Plaintiff – the person who brings legal action against the person or party who is being sued.

Examples of HSH class action lawsuits include:

Mass Tort 101

In some cases, it may make sense to group similar cases to work on them together but still resolve each claim individually. This is referred to as a mass tort action. It allows the injured parties (plaintiffs) to bring an individual case against a company alongside other people in similar situations. A mass tort action is usually funded through a contingency fee agreement, which means you don’t pay your lawyer while the claim progress and we don’t get paid until you get paid. This allows clients to breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing they don’t have to worry about covering legal fees while their claim is ongoing.

Unlike class action lawsuits, where a single person acts as the representative for the group of injured persons, mass tort actions allow each person to pursue their cases individually. As different people may experience varying degrees of injury or damages, they may also have different interests personally in the outcome of their claim. Medical product liability cases are often tried as mass torts because the severity of resulting injuries can vary widely, which means that the timeline for settlement of each claim can also vary. In these cases, Litco Law and HSH can help determine, based on the extent of your injuries, the damages and compensation you may be entitled to, and whether you would benefit from joining a mass tort action or pursuing a class action lawsuit.

Examples of HSH Mass Tort cases include:

Wrongfully injured? We’re here to help.

At Litco Law, we believe that mass tort and class action lawsuits are important legal tools that can be used to achieve justice for people who have been hurt by misconduct or negligence. We will always treat you as an individual and consider your unique needs and interests, because you are more than just a file to us. Voted Calgary’s Top Choice by our clients for seven years in a row, we have an outstanding track record of getting injured Albertans the compensation they deserve. You aren’t alone in this. We have a team that truly cares and understands. If there’s anything we can do to make your life a little (or a lot) easier, we’ll do it. Our lawyers have represented clients with all types of injuries, including those very severe and life-altering. Let our firm work to get you the maximum compensation for your claim and ensure you get the benefits and treatment you’re entitled to. We’ll handle the legal work, while you focus on getting back to better. If you are looking for a class action or mass tort lawyer in Calgary contact Litco Law today for a free consultation and get a lawyer on your side.

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    IMPORTANT! If you agree to an insurance company’s settlement offer, you give up your legal right to pursue a personal injury claim. It is best to assess the full extent of your injuries and how they will affect your life before you accept an offer. Please note that you have a maximum of two years from the date of the accident to file an injury claim in Alberta.

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