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The Difference Between Mass Torts and Class Action Lawsuits

When a case is presented with multiple plaintiffs, it may either be a mass tort or class action lawsuit. However, these terms are not interchangeable; both have unique characteristics, and it’s important to know the differences. Before you and your partners take your case to court, keep reading to learn what sets mass torts and class action lawsuits apart.


The main difference in the two lawsuits lies in what injuries the plaintiffs have received. Simply put, the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit have the same or close to the same injuries; those in a mass tort have different injuries across the group. The fact that both groups are suing the same defendant or defendants remains. Still, a class action lawsuit’s plaintiffs are generally acting as a single suing entity because of their shared injuries.

Court Treatment

Plaintiffs in a mass tort case are treated as individuals. They are suing together, but each person must present their own case and be able to prove the facts and injuries. Those involved in a class action lawsuit are treated as a “class” and choose a representative, typically an attorney, to present the case on their behalf. They must be given an opportunity to opt-out or find their own legal counsel before the case is taken to court. Classes are more likely to be spread out across a large region, as well, which often necessitates a representative; mass torts are more likely to have plaintiffs from a shared geographic area.

Case Type

Mass torts include a few specific types, including mass toxic torts for drug and chemical injuries, mass disaster torts for events like oil spills, and product liability torts. While class action lawsuits can pursue cases like these, the injury claims must be the same; variables like individual health and location tend to play a large part in the injuries, which makes shared ones less common in these categories. Mass torts also reduce the number of cases to be presented against a defendant or defendants as a result.

If you need an experienced class action or mass tort lawyer, Smith Shanklin Sosa is here to help you through the process. We’re proud to also offer a variety of legal services to clients throughout the Greater Baton Rouge area. Contact us today for a virtual consultation to get started.