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At Milestone Consulting, I have worked with many plaintiffs who have been part of class action lawsuits and mass tort litigation. With either type of case, there’s an outstanding benefit to gathering many plaintiffs who are going up against a common defendant. When many people have sustained a common injury involving the same medication, for example, they can come together in a mass tort and hold the drug manufacturer accountable — whereas individually, they may never have had the resources or power to stand up to such a huge company.

However, unless you have been involved in a class action or mass tort, the difference between the two might be unclear.

class action versus mass tort

Attorney Joe Fantini of Anapol Weiss recently published an article in The Legal Intelligencer that clearly describes the differences between class actions and mass tort litigation. As a member of the firm’s Unsafe Drug and Medical Device Team, Joe has represented clients in a number of mass torts and class actions. Below is an excerpt from his article.

“Over my career, I have had the opportunity to represent clients in both class action and mass tort litigations. Attorneys representing plaintiffs and defendants in these types of cases recognize the benefits of having a large number of injured people aggregated in a single forum, which allows the matters to proceed in an extremely efficient manner helping to facilitate the timely resolution of the numerous claims. While class actions and mass torts share many similarities, they are not the same and have very unique and significant distinctions.

“In class actions, the injured parties have suffered similar harm (injuries or damages) which arise from the same conduct on the part of the defendants. This allows for the filing of a single class action lawsuit instead of the filing of various individual lawsuits, for ­oftentimes relatively small damage amounts, on behalf of a group of individuals that are treated together as one. Common examples of class action lawsuits are those involving civil rights, environmental and employment discrimination claims…. Once a settlement or verdict is reached, regardless of the circumstances and individual facts, class members receive a share of the ­verdict or settlement that as closely as possible approximates their proportionate share of the total monetary award.

“The central difference between a mass tort and class action is that in a mass tort each of the plaintiffs has filed an individual lawsuit, which may involve varying legal claims and causes of actions, based upon the facts and evidence of their specific ­circumstance.” If they win the suit or settle, plaintiffs involved in a mass tort are compensated based on their individual injuries.

While class actions and mass torts both amp up plaintiffs’ power against the defendants, the specific circumstances of their cases dictate which type of litigation would be more useful. As Lori Andrus points out in a recent article for Impact Fund, when each plaintiff’s injuries and medical histories are at issue in litigation, too many individual issues arise to be tried on a representative basis. When that happens, mass tort litigation would most likely be more effective. Unlike class actions, the mass tort procedure allows people who have been harmed by the same product to come together to seek justice while still keeping their individual lawsuits. At the same time, mass torts can still expose corporations’ bad conduct through a single investigation. “Like class actions,” Lori explains, “this cuts down on costs to clients and saves judicial resources.”

Mass torts and class actions are two methods the civil justice system provides Americans to seek justice from negligent businesses, people, and groups that otherwise might be too powerful for one to fight individually. Click here to read Joe’s full article in The Legal Intelligencer, which continues the discussion about these distinctions and the benefits of both.


About John Bair

John Bair has guided thousands of plaintiffs through the settlement process as co-founder of Milestone Consulting, LLC, a broad-based settlement planning and management firm. Milestone’s approach is comprehensive and future-focused. John’s team has guided thousands of clients by taking the time to understand the complexities of each case. They assess the best outcome and find the path that enables each client to manage their many needs. Read more about Milestone Consulting at

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