Mass Torts v. Class Actions

One thing attorneys are educated on in law school is that the language of the law is something unique unto itself. consider the terms “mass tort” and “class action.”

You may have heard of both and appreciate that they describe types of lawsuits often brought for pursuing personal injury claims. Indeed, many readers may think they describe the same thing. But there are differences and it’s important to understand what they are.

Group makeup is key

What is similar between mass torts and class actions is that they both involve large groups of plaintiffs united in alleging that a common defendant caused them harm. The key difference is typically one of demographics.

Class actions

In a class action, the claim of harm might involve the same or similar injuries to many people caused by the same defective product. One example would be the 1998, $206 billion Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

Plaintiffs in such cases come from many jurisdictions. For judicial efficiency, the cases are consolidated into one action and the plaintiffs are all represented by a single person called a class representative, through his or her attorney.

Mass torts

Mass torts involve a more condensed group that has suffered from the same alleged event. A good example of this might be the population of Flint, Michigan, seeking remedy from the city and the state for contaminated water. Mass tort groups tend to be smaller in size and each plaintiff is obliged to prove the elements of his or her claim individually.

It is worth noting that mass tort cases have driven nearly 100 U.S. manufacturers out of business in recent decades. Legal observers say part of the reason for that is that businesses failed to take claims seriously or adopt legal and insurance strategies to manage risk.

At MacDonald Law Group, we handle a broad array of matter involving the defense of complex civil litigation, including mass tort claims. Should you have any questions on such topics, please contact us using the email or phone contacts found on our website at

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