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  • Writer's pictureLeitner Varughese Warywoda

Injury Lawsuits 101: Class Action, Mass Torts and Single Event Cases Explained


As humans, we are vulnerable to injuries. Accidents are an unpreventable aspect of our daily lives. However, when people sustain injuries as a result of someone else's negligence, they have the right to receive compensation for their losses. Personal injury lawsuits make it possible for individuals to hold responsible individuals or entities accountable for their actions. In this blog, we will discuss the three main types of personal injury lawsuits: Class Action, Mass Tort Litigation, and Single Event Injury Cases.

CLASS ACTIONS

 

A class action lawsuit involves a group of individuals with similar grievances who file a lawsuit together against a corporation or an individual. Class action lawsuits are usually filed when there are too many plaintiffs to file individual lawsuits. Typically, a single individual or a small group of people represent the entire group, and the remaining people in the group become "class members."

Class action lawsuits are more common in cases relating to consumer products, securities, employment law, and environmental law. One of the most widely known examples of a class action lawsuit is the Roundup weed killer lawsuit against the multinational corporation Monsanto.

In Roundup weed killer lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that exposure to glyphosate, an active ingredient in the herbicide, resulted in them developing cancer. Despite receiving warnings from several studies, Monsanto continued to market the product. As a result, a group of people who were affected by this product decided to come together to file a class action lawsuit.


Plaintiffs who benefit from class action lawsuits have several advantages. If many people are affected by the same condition, costs may be lower than filing individual lawsuits. Additionally, class action lawsuits make it possible for individuals with minimal damages to participate since the combined effect can strengthen their case.

On the other hand, corporations that are subject to class action lawsuits also have some advantages, including the possibility of settling for a more manageable amount.


Class Action Compensation


Class action lawsuits are one of the most common ways for multiple plaintiffs with similar legal claims to pursue compensation from a defendant. In some cases, plaintiffs may receive significant payouts, but most of the time, the money awarded ends up distributed in small amounts among thousands of class members. This raises questions about how attorneys who handle class action lawsuits make money and whether plaintiffs are being compensated fairly.


Attorneys in Class Action Lawsuits


In class action lawsuits, attorneys representing the plaintiffs typically operate on a contingency fee basis. This means that the attorneys don't charge their clients upfront fees for their legal services but instead take a percentage of the settlement or verdict the client receives.


The legal fees in class action lawsuits can be substantial, often totalling in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. For instance, the attorney fees that were awarded to the counsel in a settlement between NFL and players exceeded $112 million. In most class action lawsuits, the attorneys receive anywhere between 20% and 40% of the total payout, although some cases may have fee structures outside this range.


However, contingency fees aren't the only way attorneys make money in class action lawsuits. They can also bill for certain expenses, which further increase their total earnings. Legal costs can include expenses for things like travel, filing fees, expert witness fees, and document copies, among others.


Although the attorney fees can be high in class action cases, representing plaintiffs in these lawsuits can also be risky for law firms. They may invest a considerable amount of resources, time and effort into a lawsuit that ends in no recovery.


Litigants' Compensation in Class Action Lawsuits


In class action lawsuits, the damages awarded are supposed to provide fair compensation for the losses suffered by the plaintiffs. With a class action, because there are many litigants, the damages awarded typically end up being distributed among all the class members. In many cases, the amount received by each individual plaintiff can be insignificant compared to the total compensation received.


For example, in the Bank of America overdraft fee settlement, each account holder received approximately $27 for damages, even though the bank paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle the class action lawsuit. Thus, each litigant's settlement can be relatively low, especially if the class action includes numerous plaintiffs.


On the other hand, the compensatory value of class action lawsuits can be significant. Imagine the cost and effort needed to bring an individual claim against a giant corporation or multinational company compared to a class action that leverages the collective power of multiple plaintiffs.


Litigants in class action lawsuits also benefit from not having to spend much time or effort participating in the lawsuit. Therefore, it becomes an optional decision for parts of the plaintiffs to participate fully in the case or even their existence as a member of the class action.


Conclusion


Class action lawsuits are essential for providing a legal path for many plaintiffs who have been wronged by the actions of large corporations. Although the amount of compensation paid to individual litigants in class action lawsuits is often minimal, the collective effect can help achieve legal justice. It is crucial to seek legal advice and understand the contingency fee structure and other legal considerations before deciding to join a class action lawsuit. Working with a reputable and experienced attorney can ensure the litigation process runs smoothly. Finally, in weighing the pros and cons of pursuing a class action lawsuit, keep in mind that litigation is itself a risk with no guaranteed results.


MASS TORT LITIGATION

 

Mass tort litigation is a type of personal injury case that involves the injury of several individuals due to a single product or incident. Mass tort cases are distinctive from class actions in that the plaintiffs file individual lawsuits against the same defendant. Unlike class action lawsuits, mass tort litigation involves multiple individual cases that are tried separately, with each plaintiff getting a payout based on their unique characteristics.


Mass tort litigation is commonly seen in cases relating to defective products and environmental cleanup lawsuits. Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuits are among the most well-known mass torts. Thousands of women filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, alleging that the corporation's talcum powder caused ovarian cancer.


The significant advantage of mass tort litigation is that plaintiffs have control over their lawsuit and have the opportunity to present their individual case. Furthermore, due to the vast number of plaintiffs in mass torts, corporations face significantly higher payouts for each plaintiff than in class actions, making it more difficult for the defendant to negotiate the overall cost.

It can take years for mass tort litigation to be concluded. However, plaintiffs' chances of winning their cases improve due to the vast number of similar cases that have been filed. As a result, it is common for corporations to try and resolve mass torts as soon as possible.


Mass Tort Examples


Mass tort litigation involves multiple individual cases filed against defendants in response to a single incident or product. Here are some specific examples of recent mass tort cases that have made headlines in the news:


1. Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Lawsuits: Thousands of women have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, alleging that the company's talcum powder products contain asbestos, which caused them to develop ovarian cancer. Some of these cases have led to multi-million dollar payouts for the plaintiffs.


2. Boeing 737 Max Crashes: After two crashes in 2018 and 2019 involving the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, families of the victims have filed mass tort lawsuits against Boeing. They allege that Boeing knowingly sold an unsafe aircraft and failed to prevent the crashes, resulting in numerous fatalities.


3. Vale S.A. Dam Collapse: In 2019, a mining waste dam at a Vale S.A. iron ore mine collapsed, causing a catastrophic mudslide that killed over 250 people in Brazil. Several victims and residents of the region filed a mass tort lawsuit against Vale S.A. and its executives, claiming that the company had been negligent in managing the site.


4. JUUL E-Cigarettes: The use of JUUL e-cigarettes has surged in recent years, especially among young people. Mass tort lawsuits have been filed against JUUL Labs, alleging that the company marketed the devices to minors and failed to warn users of the addictive nature of their nicotine products.


5. Roundup Weed Killer: As mentioned earlier, the Roundup weed killer lawsuit was a high-profile mass tort litigation case. The plaintiffs alleged that they developed cancer due to exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, and successfully sued Monsanto for damages.


These examples illustrate that mass tort litigation often involves significant personal injury and environmental harm with far-reaching consequences. It provides an avenue for plaintiffs to band together and hold companies accountable for their negligence, facilitating a sense of justice for those affected by the collective harm.


SINGLE EVENT INJURY CASE

 

A single event is a type of personal injury lawsuit involving an injury caused by a specific incident, such as a car collision, a slip and fall accident, or medical malpractice. Single event injury cases are the most frequent of the three types of personal injury lawsuits.

Since each case can be very different, the complexity of the legal process is determined by the details of the case. When pursuing a single event injury case, the plaintiff must show that the defendant was responsible for the injury and that the defendant's negligence caused the injury. Plaintiff can do this through evidence such as eyewitness testimony, video footage, or medical reports.


Single event injury cases provide many advantages to plaintiffs, such as the possibility of being awarded monetary compensation for their losses. However, the burden of proof is always on the plaintiff, who must prove that the adverse event was due to the defendant's negligence.


Single event injury cases are lawsuits that arise out of one specific incident or event that has caused harm to the plaintiff. These types of cases typically involve personal injury, and the most common single event cases include:


1. Motor Vehicle Accident Cases: These cases arise from collisions between motor vehicles. They can involve cars, trucks, motorcycles, or any other type of vehicle authorized to be on the road. A plaintiff in such a case must prove that the other driver was negligent and that this negligence caused the accident to occur.


2. Slip and Fall Accident Cases: These cases arise when someone slips, trips, or falls, either on private or public property. A plaintiff in such a case must prove that the owner or possessor of the property was responsible for the hazardous condition and failed to take reasonable action to repair it or to warn the plaintiff of danger.


3. Medical Malpractice Cases: Medical malpractice involves a doctor or healthcare provider failing to provide adequate care or committing an error in diagnosis or treatment, causing the plaintiff to suffer an injury. In these cases, plaintiffs must prove that the healthcare provider deviated from the standard of care that another reasonable professional in the same position would have provided.


4. Product Liability Cases: These cases arise when a plaintiff is injured because of a defective product. These defects can be caused by design, manufacturing, or lack of warnings to the user. In these cases, plaintiffs must show that the product was defective and that this defect caused their injuries.


5. Dog Bite Cases: These cases involve injuries caused by a dog bite or dog attack. In most states, the law imposes strict liability on dog owners for harm caused by their dogs, even if they are not outrightly negligent.


These are the most common types of single event injury cases, but other examples include assault, battery, defamation, intentional harm and so on. It is essential to work with an experienced personal injury attorney to understand the unique circumstances of your case and the legal process available for your recovery.

Choosing the Right Legal Process


Choosing the right legal process is critical to resolving a personal injury lawsuit successfully. Factors that may influence the choice of legal process include the number of plaintiffs, the severity of the injury, the geographic location of the plaintiffs, the kinds of impact sustained, and the medical evidence available.

The right legal process can provide the most favourable legal outcome and a fair compensation. A different legal process might have been more advantageous. Therefore, before deciding on the type of lawsuit to pursue, consult with a trusted and experienced personal injury attorney, who can offer you the best counsel.


Conclusion


In conclusion, personal injury lawsuits allow injured individuals to pursue their claims and receive adequate compensation. Understanding the different types of cases, such as class action, mass tort litigation, and single event injury cases, is critical in pursuing the appropriate legal process for your case. When deciding to pursue a personal injury claim, talk to a trusted and experienced attorney who is familiar with the legal process, who can help you navigate the legal system and help you make an informed decision.


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