What are the Differences Between Mass Tort, Class Action, and Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Lawsuits?

If you’ve paid attention to news about lawsuits, you might have heard the terms “mass tort,” “class action,” and “multidistrict litigation (MDL).” These cases, aimed at protecting consumers, involve several plaintiffs who sue one or a few defendants, and can take a while to settle, but each lawsuit is different.

Mass tort cases stem from a defective drug or medical device on the market that harms many people. Multidistrict litigation occurs when individual mass tort cases are combined to speed up processing and information gathering. Class actions, however, do not always involve injury claims and cover one complaint with common characteristics.

Some mass tort cases are well-publicized, while many others never make headlines, but cause just as much pain to the people who are affected. They can include different complaints against the same defendant(s). For instance, patients can sue the maker of a defective medical implant for different types of injuries. In a mass tort case, they would file individual lawsuits.

Mass tort cases can be grouped together only for pretrial proceedings and become multidistrict litigation for federal trials, and then the individual cases may be tried later in their original state jurisdictions.

Bellwether trials play an important role in determining the potential outcomes of future mass torts going through MDL. These cases, a small set of lawsuits chosen from a larger group of similar cases, are tried to see how juries will react to them and to set expectations for possible settlement values. For example, C.R. Bard, the maker of the inferior vena cava (IVC) filter G2, was ordered by a jury to pay plaintiff Sherr-Una Booker $3.6 million for injuries she suffered from the device and for failure to warn about its dangers in the first IVC “bellwether” case to go to trial.

Class action lawsuits are handled differently than mass torts and MDL. In these cases, several plaintiffs who sue a defendant are grouped together into one “class.” One or a few plaintiffs can be named as representatives of the class. For instance, a class action lawsuit can occur when several consumers sue an automaker for producing faulty auto parts.

Berman & Simmons handles claims involving patients who have developed harmful complications from the use of dangerous drugs and medical devices. These cases have strict statutes of limitations, so it’s important to get in touch with us as soon as possible if you believe you have a lawsuit. We’ll fight for you and be there to counsel you through every step of the way. And you’ll pay nothing unless we win by settlement or jury verdict.

Contact us for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation today.

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