Santa Ana Mass Tort Lawyers
If you have suffered injury from using a defective product, taking a dangerous prescription medication, or being exposed to hazardous materials, you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries. These are only some examples of injuries that might result in holding a company liable for damages. With extensive financial resources and large legal teams, big corporations make it difficult for individuals to fight for compensation when they have been injured. If you have been harmed, it’s likely you aren’t alone. In some cases, a mass tort is the best response to hold manufacturers liable when their negligence has resulted in injury to multiple people.
If you, your child, or another loved one has sustained an injury or contracted an illness from a defective product or prescription medication, or a large corporation has committed fraud causing you injury or loss, contact a skilled personal injury attorney who specializes in mass torts as soon as possible. An experienced Santa Ana injury attorney from our Aitken * Aitken * Cohn office in Santa Ana will review the details of your case to determine if it fits with current mass tort legal actions. Call (714) 434-1424 to schedule a free consultation.
What Is a Mass Tort?
A mass tort is a legal action, typically filed in state or federal court, which includes a large group of plaintiffs who have suffered similar injuries or loss because of the defendant(s). Although each plaintiff has their own claim, the similarity of claims allows plaintiffs to pool resources and share information to build their cases against the defendant.
Mass torts have characteristics that distinguish them from other types of personal injury cases. They include:
- Large number of claims from a single event or product. For example, many patients suffered injury because of the same defective prescription drug, or several people from the same area contracted an illness from exposure to a toxic substance.
- Claims have common facts and legal issues. Each case shares with others similar circumstances in relation to the facts and legal issues that surround a particular product, environmental disaster, negligent action, or event.
- Claimants share the same goal. The overall value of all claims in a mass tort increase and decrease depending on the outcome of individual cases.
- Cases are often consolidated in the beginning. Typically one judge handles pre-trial issues of law and discovery to avoid wasting time and promote consistency among cases.
- Each claimant has an individual case. Each claimant has autonomy and makes decisions about their case, instead of one person representing all like a class action.
Mass Torts versus Class Action Lawsuits
When many people are injured by the same party, most people think of class action suits. Class actions offer benefits, but they have specific requirements. Some situations exist where a class action lawsuit isn’t the best choice; instead, a group of attorneys and their clients will initiate a mass tort. Here are some of the reasons why mass personal injury litigation might be the best path for your case:
- Cases are not similar enough. In class action suits, the lead plaintiff represents the whole class of people. If they lose the case, the entire class loses. When victims’ harm, injury, or loss vary greatly, mass litigation might be a better option.
- The claimants aren’t numerous. Lawyers like class actions when the number of claimants is simply too many to try each case individually. In a mass tort, the number of claimants might may still be manageable in terms of maintaining individual cases.
- Courts award damages to individual claimants. In class action lawsuits, the total damages are split between the entire class if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs. With a mass tort, the plaintiff might get a higher amount of money and doesn’t need to share damages with others.
Types of Mass Tort Cases
A wide variety of situations might give rise to multiple individuals filing similar suits against the same defendant. Most mass torts revolve around the use of the same product or service, or a common event. Here are some examples of common types of mass tort actions:
- Airline crashes. When an airline disaster occurs, surviving passengers and surviving family members might choose to file a personal injury or wrongful death suit. When there are many survivors, each passenger experiences different levels of injury and loss depending on where they were seated on the plane. The large number of plaintiffs, the complexities of an aviation accident, as well as the large amount of resources it takes to bring suit against an airline, may make a mass tort a viable option to recover damages.
- Cruise ship accidents. Cruise ships, much like airplanes, create a large number of claimants when an accident occurs or the company’s negligence causes harm to passengers. Although major cruise ship accidents are rare, ships being stuck at sea without food, water, and power, several cases of food poisoning, and ships’ captains navigating through treacherous storms have resulted in passenger injuries.
- Environmental disasters/exposure to toxic substances. When large corporations have a disaster or expose others to hazardous materials, victims might be eligible to recover damages. Whether these cases are brought as class actions or mass tort depends on how many people are affected. When a disaster or exposure remains confined to a neighborhood, or small area, it’s unlikely to result in a class action. Examples of this kind of mass tort include the Exxon and BP oil spills and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, as well as asbestos exposure mass torts.
- Medical devices. Mass torts are commonly used when defective medical devices cause injury or death to patients. Although patients suffer injury from the same device and company, the extent of the injuries sometimes varies, making a mass tort action the right path in some cases.
- Prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies can be held liable when their drugs cause severe harm or death. The testing lab, drug company, and retailer might all be named in a mass tort. Two of the most common antidepressants, Prozac and Paxil, resulted in mass tort lawsuits.
- Product liability. Other products besides medical devices and prescription medications fall under the product liability umbrellas. When a product has a manufacturing, design, or marketing defect it can affect tens to thousands of consumers depending on the situation. In a product liability mass tort action, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and any other party in a product’s chain of distribution might be liable.
What Kinds of Damages Can I Recover From a Mass Tort Case?
Although plaintiffs in mass torts share resources, they have individual cases. In the same fashion as an ordinary personal injury suit, mass tort plaintiffs might recover damages if the court rules in their favor. Damages commonly awarded include:
- Medical costs including ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, surgery, x-rays, follow-up visits, travel expenses to and from the doctor, and prescription medication
- Future medical costs in the case of a chronic condition or long-term disability
- Rehabilitation and recovery costs including physical therapy and assistive devices like crutches, wheelchairs, canes, or prosthetic limbs
- Lost wages for time away from work that is directly related to an injury and hospitalization
- Future lost wages, referred to as lost earning capacity in the event that a victim cannot return to work, needs to work fewer hours, or must change professions as a result of the injury
- Home modifications for increasing accessibility such as the installation of ramps or handrails
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Other non-economic damages that might apply to your case
- Punitive damages in severe cases of gross negligence, fraud, or intent to harm
If you are a surviving family member of an injury victim, you might recover damage in a California wrongful death suit or survivor action. Discuss this with an attorney who will advise you on which option is best for your family and situation.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Mass Tort in California?
Whether you file an individual suit or are part of mass tort litigation, you have two years from the date of injury to initiate legal action in California. Similarly, if you are part of a mass tort wrongful death action, you have two years to file a wrongful death suit or survivor action as a surviving family member. Several situations might give a court a valid reason to pause the time clock on the statute of limitations, but this is very rare. It’s in your best interest to contact a skilled mass tort attorney as soon as possible after your injury to ensure you have the opportunity to recover losses related to your injury.
How Do Companies Try to Avoid Liability?
Large companies who have been named in mass tort claims worry about their bottom line. Paying out damages on multiple cases hurts the balance sheet at the very least, and might result in bankruptcy and/or dissolution in some cases. Although mass torts involve individual cases, they are connected to the extent that if a court rules in favor of the first few cases, the following cases often have a similar outcome. Rest assured that if you sue as part of a mass tort, the defendant will take every action possible to avoid paying out huge settlements or worse, having to pay higher court-ordered damages. If the company cannot prove that they weren’t negligent for the injury and harm to others, they will typically try two different strategies.
First, the defense will build a case to argue that damages are overvalued. For example, they might argue that a plaintiff’s injuries are not as bad as they claim, or they might dispute the value of future medical expenses, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering, so they devalue the claim. When the defense doesn’t succeed in reducing the value of a claim, they might consider making a settlement offer. These initial offers are meant to be high enough to entice a plaintiff to settle, but typically are not full and fair compensation for a plaintiff’s injury and loss.
Mass tort claims are complex cases which require cooperation, investigation, and diligence on the part of attorneys, their support staff, and everyone involved. Fighting a large corporation alone can bankrupt the average person. It’s in your best interest to contact a personal injury attorney who has experience with mass tort litigation, so you can benefit from other plaintiff’s cases and have the resources of a reputable firm behind you. A skilled lawyer will handle the details of your case, including negotiations, and aggressively pursue the best outcome to hold responsible parties liable.
Hire a Reputable Attorney Who Deals With Mass Torts
If you have suffered injury or loss, or a loved one has passed because of the carelessness or intentional harm of a large company, you need to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. You might not be alone; it’s possible that other plaintiffs have already come forward to sue for damages. An experienced attorney can provide this information and guide you on the best path forward for your circumstances. If you decide to sue for damages as part of a mass tort claim, you will benefit from pooled resources among law firms representing clients who are suing the same company.
Some don’t contact an attorney because they are worried about attorney fees. It’s an industry standard to not charge injury victims for fees upfront. In the vast majority of instances, your attorney will handle your personal injury claim on a contingent fee basis. This means attorneys will recover fees and expenses from any settlement or court-awarded damages from a verdict in your favor.
If you know that others are suing for similar injuries and you want to be included in a mass tort claim, or you believe that your injury or losses provide a basis for mass tort, contact the knowledgeable and experienced mass tort attorneys at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn in Santa Ana at (714) 434-1424 or email us to schedule a free consultation. One of our skilled attorneys will evaluate the details of your case and advise you on your best course of action.