A class action is a lawsuit that is filed by an individual or small group of people that are acting on behalf of, or representing, a much larger group of victims. In this sense, a class action is similar to a mass tort, since they both involve a group of people seeking compensation after being wronged in some way.
The individual or small group of people who have been injured and are filing the claim — the plaintiffs — will sue the entity or entities that caused the harm — the defendants. Just like mass torts, class-action lawsuits offer several advantages, including the fact that litigation is less expensive overall and the judicial system faces less strain than it would if multiple parties were suing the same company for the same damages.
The biggest difference between a class action and a mass tort is that in a class-action lawsuit, the plaintiffs who file the claim are not the only victims who can win compensation from the defendant.
In mass torts, each plaintiff’s claim is treated separately, whereas in a class action, all the claims are treated collectively. This is usually because a mass tort case does not meet the requirements to be a class action case. To qualify as a class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs must have a similar, common claim. Some cases, like a lawsuit against a pharmeceutical company, may not be able to qualify as a class action lawsuit, because a drug may have different effects on different plaintiffs, making their claims different.
If a class action lawsuit is successful, then the compensation is divided among the plaintiffs, eliminating the risk of some plaintiffs getting more than others just because they joined the lawsuit earlier.
So, although the class representatives are the plaintiffs who are active in the court proceedings, anyone who has been harmed by the defendant can recover damages if the class-action lawsuit is successful.
This compensation can sometimes equal up to thousands or even millions of dollars. These other victims are called class members.
If you believe you have a claim as part of a class action lawsuit, you may contact a law firm that has a track history of successful lawsuits.
Maybe a mass tort lawsuit would be better for your particular case. To learn about mass torts and how they are different from class action lawsuits, continue to the next slide.