Class Actions vs. Mass Tort

Consumer Rights Law Firm Serving Clients in Chicago, Illinois, and Nationwide

Question: What is a class action lawsuit?

Answer: In a class action lawsuit, numerous victims sue one or more defendants in one lawsuit for the same or similar harm. One victim acts as the lead plaintiff and represents the entire group, actively participates in the process, and decides whether to accept or reject settlement offers.

The other members of the class generally do not participate, and may not even be aware of the lawsuit or that they have been included.

Question: Why would I want to be the lead plaintiff?

Answer: The lead plaintiff can potentially receive an incentive award based on their level of participation in the case.

If you are not the lead plaintiff and you do not think the settlement is fair, you can opt out and try suing on your own, but you will not receive recovery from the class action lawsuit.

Question: Is a class action the same as a mass tort?

Answer: No. In a mass tort, the plaintiffs all have individual lawsuits. In a class action, all of the claims are combined into a single lawsuit.

But there are some similarities. In a mass tort, there are numerous victims suing the same defendant. The same attorney may represent many of the plaintiffs. Attorneys for the plaintiffs can share information and work together, and similar cases can be argued together.

Mass torts are appropriate when the harm to the victims varies greatly. For instance, mass torts tend to be used in large accident cases such as plane crashes.

Question: What if I want to sue separately?

Answer: You cannot be part of a class action and sue separately. You have to choose one or the other.

Some class actions, referred to as “opt-out” lawsuits, automatically include people who are eligible in the class. If you are automatically included in a class and you want to sue on your own, you must first opt out of the class action. If you do that, you will not be eligible to collect any of the proceeds from the class action.

If the class action is an “opt-in” lawsuit, you will not automatically be included. If you want to join the class you must opt in. If you do not opt in you are free to sue individually.

To learn more about class action lawsuits and whether your case might qualify, please call the lawyers at Markoff Leinberger at 1-877-905-5161.