How Is a Class Action Lawsuit Different from a ‘Mass Tort’?

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David Klein was the first lawyer to get a class action lawsuit certified in British Columbia. Since that time, Klein Lawyers has been a leading firm in class action litigation.

Class action lawsuits make it possible for multiple plaintiffs who have been harmed by a defendant or multiple defendants’ negligence to recover compensation without the need to pursue separate individual claims. However, not all claims of negligence and wrongdoing will pass the test for certification as a class action.

If they do not pass the test for certification of a class action, the plaintiffs’ cases are considered individual claims, often referred to as “mass tort” claims. Like class action lawsuits, these individual claims concern the injuries and other harms suffered by multiple plaintiffs due to the same defendant or defendants’ wrongdoing. Unlike class actions, they consist of individual legal claims involving distinct questions of fact or law among the plaintiffs.

Many class actions begin as individual claims before they are certified by the court. If your office is fielding calls from multiple plaintiffs who report the same injuries and losses from a common cause, it is important to know the benefits of seeking certification as a class action lawsuit.

Call Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today if you are looking to refer a case or partner with a pioneering class action law firm. Klein Lawyers handles class action lawsuits throughout Canada from our offices in Vancouver and Toronto.

Considering Whether Individual Claims Could Be a Class Action Lawsuit

Until the court grants certification, claims where multiple individuals are affected are just that: individual legal actions that may happen to share a common cause and a common defendant. “Mass tort” is a term of art in the legal profession used to describe a situation where a host of plaintiffs can sue the same defendant independently for discrete injuries and damages sustained as a result of the same or similar circumstances. Klein Lawyers specializes in determining whether a successful class action can be brought on behalf of these plaintiffs.

Specific legal requirements must be met for cases to proceed as a single class action. The court will only grant certification if it is satisfied that the following conditions apply:

If class action certification is not granted, claims may still proceed on an individual basis. Alternatively, members of the class action who opt out of the proceeding may wish to pursue an individual claim against the defendant.

What Types of Individual Claims Could Be Handled as Class Actions?

Individual claims against the same defendant or defendants can involve many of the same issues as class action lawsuits. Both types of cases involve people who have suffered wrongs on a broad scale; the principal difference is how the matter moves through the courts.

Common types of potential class action cases include:

  • Product Liability Claims
  • Institutional Negligence and Abuse
  • Violations of Wage and Hour Law
  • Anticompetitive Business Practices
  • Mishandling Employee Benefits and Pensions
  • Dangerous Drugs and Medical Device Litigation
  • False Advertising and Deceptive Marketing
  • Violations of Consumer Privacy and Failure to Safeguard Data
  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty
  • Environmental Catastrophe
  • Foodborne Illness

Your firm may focus on one or more of these types of claims, serving clients who suffer physical injury, pecuniary loss, and violations of their rights on an individual basis. In some cases, however, the negligence or wrongdoing of corporations or other institutions can affect hundreds upon thousands of people. The impact may be limited to your province or territory, or it may be felt across Canada.

Often, lawyers who specialize in a particular area of law are the ones to identify common causes of injury among their clients. If commonalities in the cases you see start to emerge, it may be worth determining if class action litigation is appropriate.

The majority of lawyers and law firms lack experience with class action lawsuits. Klein Lawyers has extensive experience with class actions, and we are proud to partner with lawyers throughout Canada to identify the best option for pursuing compensation and justice on their clients’ behalf.

Individual Claims or Class Action?

The ultimate question of whether a clients’ claims should be handled individually or consolidated with similar claims as a class action depends on the specific nature of the matter at hand. If the case meets the qualifications the court uses to determine whether to certify the proceeding as a class action (see above), it is generally beneficial from both an economic standpoint (plaintiffs’ counsel share the costs of litigation) and an accessibility standpoint (justice for multiple plaintiffs can be achieved through a single claim, rather than piecemeal individual cases) to pursue a class action lawsuit.

However, a class action proceeding isn’t always the optimal choice. It may be worth handling the case as an individual claim if:

  • The cause of your client’s injury differs substantially from that of other claimants
  • Your client’s injury is significantly worse than in other reported cases
  • The damages your client is entitled to are likely to exceed what can be recovered through a class action settlement (or does in fact exceed the available compensation, if your client wishes to opt out of a class action proceeding)
  • Distinct questions of fact or law are involved in your client’s case

The main advantage of handling individual cases is the ability to seek maximum compensation for your client. Class members are bound by the outcome of the class action lawsuit (unless they opt out). A fair settlement will account for the losses of class members as a whole, but those who have been severely harmed are not likely to be fully compensated for their losses.

Unlike in a class action, lawyers can pursue full compensation in an individual claim. Although the cause of action, injury, and damages may all be similar to that of other plaintiffs, handling the case as an individual claim affords you greater control over the preparation of the case and the ultimate outcome. If an individual claim succeeds, the settlement or award is more likely to meet your client’s needs than what he or she may be awarded in a successful class action lawsuit.

Why Choose Klein Lawyers

Class action litigation is complicated. Many law firms are not properly equipped to handle these cases and lack the experience, knowledge, and resources necessary to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Having pioneered class action litigation in British Columbia and served as plaintiffs’ counsel in a number of other provinces, Klein Lawyers has in-depth knowledge and proven experience handling class action lawsuits. 

Our lawyers and staff closely monitor emerging litigation to stay apprised of potential class action lawsuits. We are well-versed in provincial and territorial laws concerning defective products, consumer rights, employment law, and other areas of practice that commonly give rise to class action proceedings.

Lawyers throughout Canada commonly refer prospective class actions to our firm because of our recognized aptitude in these complex legal matters. We have a history of success in a wide range of landmark cases.

If you are looking for a partner in a class action lawsuit, Klein Lawyers wants to hear from you. We are also proud to accept referral cases.

Contact a Class Action Lawyer Today

Founder and managing partner David Klein is listed by Lexpert as one of the most recommended lawyers in the field of class action litigation. The Best Lawyers in Canada has also repeatedly included David in its list of leading class action litigators.

David leads the Class Action Practice Group at Klein Lawyers. With our dedicated team of lawyers, capable support team, and advanced technical systems, we are able to handle class actions efficiently and effectively.

Klein Lawyers has offices in Vancouver and Toronto and we handle class actions nationwide. Fill out the form on this page or call (604) 874-7171 to discuss referring a case to our firm or entering into a partnership.