From product liability to personal injury, malfunctioning medical devices, to large-scale disasters, mass tort cases can result from intentional or accidental acts. All these cases share one thing in common: there were injuries, often in large numbers.
Generally, mass torts are triggered by a Food and Drug Administration warning, product recall, news reports, or studies that reveal dangers associated with the product or the event. Mass tort litigation is traditionally regarded as a lucrative field of the law.
Finding qualifying claimants has become increasingly difficult as more lawyers and businesses seek mass tort cases, and the cost per claimant has increased. As a result, many people are turning to firms that provide Mass Tort Lead Generation, which has become a significant aspect in growing their law firms, among other things.
What is a Mass Tort Case
The term “mass tort” refers to a type of lawsuit in which many plaintiffs sue one or more defendants. The claim is generally filed as a result of the same physical or financial damages that the claimants have suffered. A mass tort case can be filed at either the state or federal level.
The Characteristics of Mass Torts
Mass torts have the following characteristics:
- They are related to a large number of claims involving the same product or action. For example, numerous patients were injured by the same defective medical device (e.g., surgical implant), or many neighbors were sickened by the same toxic spill (e.g., Exxon-Valdez).
- Each plaintiff will be suing the same defendant or a group of defendants pursuing the same objective.
- Each case is based on the same or similar facts and laws: a single product, disaster, or action.
- Depending on the outcomes of the individual cases and other critical developments, the aggregate value of the claims increases or decreases.
- Cases are often consolidated at the beginning. To promote judicial economy and consistency, one judge decides preliminary legal issues.
Mass tort lawsuits arose from pioneering trials of lawyers like Melvin Belli in the 1950s when pain and suffering awards were common. In the early 1960s, strict product liability laws were adopted, which allowed plaintiffs to seek compensation for damages caused by defective products. Soon after, mass tort litigation begins over the sale of MER/29, an anti-cholesterol drug.
In the early 1970s, lawyers began representing people injured in plane crashes. There were also two notable lawsuits at the time: asbestos exposure and tobacco use. They are the two largest mass tort lawsuits, and both are still pending. Several mass tort cases are pending right now.
Mass Torts and Other Liability Lawsuits
In both mass torts and class actions, many people seek compensation from a single defendant or a small number of defendants. In both cases, the claimants are harmed similarly. Multidistrict litigation (MDL) offers the possibility of consolidated and coordinated pretrial proceedings and discovery in both cases. There is also a possibility that both types of litigation may eventually end in a global settlement.
There are, however, some key differences between mass torts and class actions. Class actions have very specific procedural requirements both at the state and federal levels. Plaintiffs present their interests as a class, and any settlement applies to all members of the class (unless someone opts out). During mass tort litigation, the participants discuss settlements as a group, but their rights are protected.
Growing Your Law Firm with Mass Tort Cases
It may be one of the biggest decisions you make as a personal injury lawyer or a firm to take on mass tort cases. To determine if you can pursue it effectively, consider the following factors.
Mass tort litigation firms fall into three basic categories:
- An all-inclusive model,
- The marketing and advertising model
- Combination of both.
Decide which option is best for you by asking:
- If you have the time and resources to acquire and screen such an enormous amount of claims;
- Is it better to sign up cases yourself and then co-counsel with a firm willing to assume most (or all) of the costs?
- Does it make sense for my firm to be involved in the litigation without taking on a lead role?
You must plan carefully for the capital and resources you’ll need and choose the option that fits your firm’s capabilities best.
Which Mass Torts to Take
When you invest significant resources, as dictated by mass tort litigation, you want to be confident about the choice you make. So, first, do your research to increase your chances of success. Secondly, plan a specific per-plaintiff cost of getting clients for specific litigation.
This will help you stay on track and prevent overspending. Thirdly, estimate how much each case you take on will settle for and what your fees will be as a result.
Identify your target audience to attract clients: their age, race, religion, gender, income, level of education, etc. Take into account how they acquire information as well. Is it more effective to advertise on television, radio, or in the local paper? As soon as you identify these factors, you can begin planning your marketing campaign.
A nationwide reach is possible through key media channels (e.g., TV ads), but they are expensive. Hiring an advertising agency makes sense in many cases. You might consider partnering with a firm that has already established a national presence and launched a major marketing campaign.
To avoid wasted time and resources, law firms need to run efficiently and create a positive working environment for clients and staff. Have a plan in place for the intake and evaluation of mass tort clients. You can do this by keeping things in-house or associating with firms willing to take on the litigation from the outset or with a marketing or lead generation company (outsourcing).
Consider whether your current staff can carry the additional work volume? Can you get the help you need to determine if an incoming case is a good fit, especially if you receive a high volume of leads? Are you better off hiring? Keeping things in-house can also mean incurring costs (e.g., obtaining medical records).
Additional Tips for a Mass Tort Practice
If you are considering mass torts for your law firm’s growth, consider the following tips, as well as the factors mentioned above.
Mass tort clients are best sought at these moments:
- During the emerging phase, when many attorneys are advertising about a particular mass tort. This is the time when consumer awareness is at its peak.
- When the federal courts create a multidistrict litigation docket (MDL) for a mass tort.
- When the defendant informs its shareholders that a settlement fund has been established, lawyers are already signing clients for settlements.
Invest in Branding and Marketing
For your law firm to grow, you need a clear identity and a system to attract potential clients. You can do this by educating and advertising. You can, for instance, provide consumers with tactful and tactical advertising in mass tort cases to identify the ways a product or action may have harmed them.
You can onboard more clients by communicating clearly with potential plaintiffs. Many clients are concerned about paying hefty legal fees without any results. By clearly communicating that lawyers do not get paid until compensation is earned from a mass tort case, more clients will be willing to join the case.
For clients to be informed of the status of their case from the beginning to the end of the litigation and beyond, it is wise to have a standard process in place. Having an effective website can make it easier for clients to find and contact you online, giving them a more positive experience from the beginning.
It is important to remember that winning cases in court does not guarantee a successful mass tort practice. Mass tort cases can sometimes be settled out of court since most defendants do not want the negative publicity that results from being involved in lawsuits, especially if there is substantial evidence of malpractice and negligence against them.
Using technology can help you automate or streamline repetitive tasks (e.g., online credit card payments, client portals, client intake solutions, etc.).
Consider Ethical Issues
While you may not meet with every single mass tort client personally, you still have an ethical obligation towards every one of them.
Believe in Yourself
The task of growing a law firm is no small feat, so you have to have confidence in yourself, focus on your firm, and don’t worry about your competitors.
You and your firm are likely to get excited about the possibilities that mass tort cases present. You’ll need work, strategy, and possibly a shift in perspective to get clients to grow your law firm and become a success story.
Be aware of the pros and cons before you take the plunge. Thus, you will be able to make an informed decision on how to proceed with mass tort cases for your firm. We hope this guide helped you in the right direction.