Torts, Mass Torts, Class Actions and Personal Injury

Legal terms can sometimes be confusing for individuals looking for information about their options following an injury caused by an accident or defective product. By knowing the proper use of these terms, a person can make a more informed decision when deciding whether to pursue a claim for injuries with a Little Rock, AR personal injury lawyer.

What is a Tort?

What most people describe as a personal injury is known in legal terms as a “tort.” A tort is defined as a private or civil wrong that results in an injury, a breach of the duty of care causing damage, or an act of negligence on the part of a person or company. People who are injured due to the fault of another, whether in an accident or due to a defective product such as a drug or medical device, have the legal right to pursue a claim for damages.

Damages recoverable include medical expenses, the loss of the ability to work, pain and suffering, and any scarring or disfigurement resulting from the accident. If a person dies from their injuries, family members may pursue damages for the death of their loved one.

What is a Mass Tort?

Torts are often described as “single events” when an incident results in injury to just one person or a small group of people. When an accident or a defective product causes injury to a large number of people, it is often referred to as a “mass tort.”

Mass torts are different from class actions in that, while the manner of injury may be the same for many people, the type or degree of injury is different. Additionally, class actions are usually filed by one person on behalf of a large group of people, known as the class, and the damages recovered are typically the same or similar for each member of the class. In contrast, mass torts involve individual cases filed by a large number of people.

Because mass torts involve many separate lawsuits, those lawsuits are usually consolidated in one court for the purposes of pre-trial proceedings. In the federal court system, these consolidated cases are called Multidistrict Litigations, or MDLs. In state courts they are sometimes referred to as consolidated state court proceedings. The purpose of consolidating cases is to ensure that pre-trial rulings are consistent and that the parties do not have to provide the same information in many different cases.

Examples of Mass Torts

Current mass torts are pending against the makers of many types of metal-on-metal hip replacements due to premature failure of these devices, against the makers of Invokana over claims that the diabetes drug leads to dangerous bloss acid levels, and against the makers of the heart burn medicine Nexium due to alleged kidney failure caused by the drug. In each of these cases, it is claimed that one product or type of product has caused injury to a large number of people.

Thanks to our friends and blog authors at Johnson Vines Attorneys for their insight to torts and personal injury practice.