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Virgilio Solis
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Mass Torts vs Class Action: What’s the Difference?

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Every day, thousands of people in the United States suffer from side effects caused by drug prescriptions. Consequently, these people find themselves in a constant struggle as they go through pain, embarrassment and insurmountable medical bills. However, many people choose not to file a claim against the drug’s manufacturer. One of the misconception is that they will only obtain minimal amount of compensation just like everyone else involved in the lawsuit. That is not the case.

Mass Tort is different from Class Action

As someone who handles Risperdal cases, it is not uncommon for prospective claimants to be hesitant in signing up or even pursuing the claim after they signed up. As mentioned above, one of the main reason is they think they are signing up for a class action wherein they could end up, just like everyone else involved in the litigation to merely obtain minimal compensation. Contrary to this belief, current Risperdal cases as well as other products liability cases against manufacturers and toxic tort cases are more accurately categorized under mass torts. Mass Torts have critical differences with Class Action lawsuits.

Class action is a type of legal action in which the court authorizes a single person or group of people to represent the interests of a larger group who shares common legal and factual questions. In other words, there is an appointed representative that acts on behalf of a group. Members of that group share similar circumstances in their claim and thus will be treated as a single entity. Additionally, class action requires several prerequisites to be satisfied in order to be certified as class action and be able to move forward through the legal system. Finally, when the Defendant Company loses, compensation will be paid out but the amount will be divided evenly among all claimants involved.

Unlike class action, mass torts do not undergo the same judicial processes in order to get certified. Also, each cases, although part of a larger group are still treated as individual cases. This means that for each plaintiff, certain facts needs to be established including the uniqueness of their injury from other plaintiffs. Let’s take Risperdal for example. Although each Risperdal claimants have all been injured by ingesting the same drug, the severity of the injuries vary from one claimant to another. An injured person who became so overweight and developed 44D breasts most likely have suffered significantly different from someone who took one dose of Risperdal and gained a few pounds at best. Additionally, there could be other hard to measure injuries involved such as emotional distress and mental anguish where the severity will be dependent on the unique experiences suffered by each claimants. Moreover, some claimants will also suffer additional side effects such as EPS and Hyperprolactinemia. Class action lawsuits will not be the best avenue for compensation for these claimants. It would be unfair to treat them all the same and have the compensation be equally divided up. Fortunately, this can be adequately addressed by mass tort litigations.

Another difference between class action and mass tort is on how individuals are grouped together for resolution by the judicial system. In mass tort, the individual cases are grouped together in what is commonly called as multidistrict litigation (MDL). MDL’s occur when individual cases are pooled together to be heard in a single court, but the cases are not combined into a single lawsuit. In California, the proceedings are referred to as Judicial Council Coordinated Proceedings (JCCP).

Risperdal litigation as an example of a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

When dangerous drugs such as Risperdal causes harm to a massive number of people across the country, thousands of resulting individual personal injury claims can clog the court system. In order to alleviate the problem, and to increase efficiency, these claims can be transferred over to a single judge to oversee the whole litigation. In such a scenario, a single judge can efficiently work with both the plaintiff and the defense to set pre-trial status conferences, trial scheduling and settlement conferences. Currently, thousands of Risperdal cases are being consolidated and filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

If you or a love one ingested Risperdal, you may be entitled to compensation. Please contact the attorneys at Paglialunga and Harris, PS.