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Mass Tort Lawsuit Overview

Mass tort lawsuits can occur when numerous plaintiffs experience harm from a shared source. They allow individuals to seek justice and compensation that can help with medical bills, lost wages, and other damages from harm they’ve experienced. Mass torts also provide an avenue for holding large corporations accountable for negligence and wrongdoings that have harmed a large number of victims.

Plaintiffs’ cases are handled individually during mass torts, unlike class action lawsuits where they are grouped together. However, aspects of the litigation may be consolidated to streamline the process. Examples of mass torts include those who have suffered from defective products, environmental exposure, and unsafe pharmaceutical drugs. Learn more about how mass torts work and how King Law can help you seek justice.

What Is a Mass Tort?

Mass torts are legal actions that occur when multiple individuals are harmed by the same action, event, or omission. Each case is unique and handled on an individual basis, but they all share the same source of harm and legal issues. Mass tort cases have enough differences that they cannot be part of a class action lawsuit.

Mass Torts vs. Class Actions vs. MDLs

You may hear mass torts, class action lawsuits, and MDLs being used interchangeably. However, they each have key differences. Mass tort and class action lawsuits both involve multiple plaintiffs who experienced harm from a shared source. However:

Mass Tort LawsuitsClass Action Lawsuits

  • Each case is handled and addressed individually.

  • Plaintiffs always have to opt into filing a lawsuit or joining an existing lawsuit.

  • Plaintiffs have a level of control over their case and can select their own attorney.

  • Each case has its own facts, evidence, and argument but pre-trial proceedings may be consolidated.

  • Cases result in individual settlements or awards based on unique details of each case.


  • Plaintiffs are grouped together, typically with a shared outcome.

  • Plaintiffs may have to apply to join the litigation or may be automatically added based on the case.

  • The lead plaintiff(s) or their attorney(s) represent the entire group with little individual involvement.

  • Cases share evidence and arguments.

  • Settlements and awards are usually distributed equally among plaintiffs.

For multidistrict litigation, MDLs are the actual federal procedure of streamlining multiple cases from various districts into a single larger claim.

This infographic is a Venn diagram showing the similarities and differences between mass torts and class action lawsuits.

Mass Tort Examples

Examples of mass tort lawsuits include:

  • Ozempic: Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly after victims developed harmful side effects from drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy. These cases have now been combined in federal mass tort litigation with an appointed leadership structure.
  • Asbestos: Asbestos manufacturers continue to face an onslaught of lawsuits from individuals suffering from illnesses like mesothelioma or those who have lost loved ones after wrongful exposure to the carcinogen. Asbestos is one of the most well-known examples of mass tort litigation.
  • Groundwater contamination: Water contaminated with harmful chemicals like PFAS has contributed to thousands of lawsuits across the United States from individuals who consumed toxic water and now face serious health conditions like cancer.

Other mass tort cases you may recognize involve defective products like 3M earplugs, hernia mesh, and artificial hips, cancerous products like talcum powder and Roundup®, and medications with serious side effects like Zantac and Valsartan.

How Do Mass Torts Work? – The Process From Start to Finish

Mass torts typically involve the following process:

  1. A large number of victims, called plaintiffs, experience a similar type of harm from a situation like using a defective product, taking a harmful drug, or experiencing wrongful exposure from environmental contamination.
  2. During the investigation phase, plaintiffs’ attorneys will gather evidence, identify their defendant, and begin building the case.
  3. Plaintiffs can file individual lawsuits against the party or parties they deem responsible. An experienced attorney can confirm lawsuit eligibility, help claimants build their case, and file on their behalf.
  4. If there are a large number of claims with damages and a shared defendant, they can be combined into a single legal action known as multidistrict litigation (MDL) or state court consolidation.
  5. For MDLs, federal cases from various districts are transferred to a single district for pretrial proceedings. This streamlines the process to avoid duplicative efforts, encourages consistent rulings, and can save resources. For state court consolidations, multiple cases from various state courts are combined into a single proceeding with a single judge.
  6. Plaintiffs and defendants exchange information, present evidence, and give their arguments. This is when witness depositions and expert testimonies take place.
  7. Cases then usually either reach a settlement (the plaintiff and defendant can negotiate the award amount) or go to trial for a jury verdict. Each case is handled individually and will reach its own outcome based on the strength of the case (amount of evidence, severity of illness, age at the time of injury, etc.).

Successful mass torts can provide victims with compensation needed to pay for treatments, accommodate for lost wages, and address other damages that resulted from the defendant’s wrongdoings. In addition, mass torts allow corporations and other responsible parties to be held accountable on a wide scale for their negligence or harm caused that could have been avoided.

While financial compensation can’t take away pain, suffering, and other impacts of wrongdoings, it can ease monetary burdens on victims and their families. The potential of being held liable for significant financial responsibilities can also help deter large companies and organizations from further negative behavior.

This infographic shows a flowchart of the mass tort process from start to finish.

How Long Do Mass Tort Lawsuits Take?

Mass torts often take several years from the time of filing to resolution. Some may take just months while others may take decades. That’s why it’s important for claimants to contact an attorney as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary delays in seeking justice and financial support.

Pre-trial motions and hearings are often one of the longest stages of the process and can prolong the timeline. Factors that can influence how long mass torts take include:

  • How many plaintiffs there are
  • Legal and scientific complexity
  • Availability and amount of evidence
  • The jurisdiction’s legal procedures
  • The defendants’ response and desire to settle or pursue a verdict
  • Ability to coordinate multiple cases through MDL

Be sure to contact an attorney as soon as possible to begin the legal process and avoid any unnecessary delays.

Mass Tort Funding and Financing

There are financial support options that may be available to mass tort plaintiffs:

  • Contingency fees: Some attorneys allow plaintiffs to pay only if their case is successful. They pay no upfront fees and the attorney will collect an agreed-upon percentage of any settlement or reward.
  • Litigation finance companies: Some lenders will provide a non-recourse loan to cover upfront legal costs. The lender will then collect their funds from the resulting settlement or award. This option can have steep interest rates and fees, reducing how much compensation you walk away with, so it should be pursued with caution.
  • Other options: Less traditional options for funding legal expenses may include legal aid organizations, pro bono representation, and support from friends and family.

Talk with an attorney to determine the strength of your case, opportunity for compensation, and breakdown of fees and payment timelines. By understanding the total cost or pursuing a lawsuit and when your payments are due, you can make an informed decision that corresponds with your financial situation.

Mass Tort Attorney Fees

Some mass tort attorneys utilize contingency fees. Many claimants benefit from this option and the opportunity to avoid large legal expenses that could be lost if they don’t win their case. While it can be a risk for the attorneys putting in the work, it prioritizes the plaintiff and can ease financial stress that could deter them from filing a lawsuit.

With this arrangement, attorneys and plaintiffs will agree on a contingency, which is a percentage of the final award. This percentage often ranges from 25% to 40%. In addition to the contingency fees, plaintiffs may also need to pay court filing fees, expert witness fees, deposition fees, travel expenses, and more. They may need to pay these costs as they arise or their law firm could cover them and later deduct from the final award amount. To fully understand your financial obligations, be sure to discuss them with your attorney before starting the legal process.

Through a no-obligation, free consultation with King Law, we can provide you with transparency to make the decision that’s right for you.

This infographic lists the options that may be available in a mass tort for financial assistance. Image of a gavel lying on one hundred dollar bills.

Average Mass Tort Settlement Amounts

Mass tort settlements can vary greatly and often result in payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars. You may see a settlement anywhere between $100,000 to $1,000,000 depending on the details of your case.

Aspects of a mass tort case that can influence settlement amounts include:

  • Extent of damages (medical expenses, treatment costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.)
  • Amount and strength of evidence
  • Age at the time of injury or diagnosis
  • Severity of injury or illness
  • Legal strategies of both parties
  • Where the case is tried

When you have an initial consultation with an attorney, they can compare your case to others to give you a better understanding of your compensation potential.

Contact a Mass Tort Lawyer

If you’re ready to explore your legal options, contact a mass tort lawyer today. At King Law, we have experience handling these cases and understand what it takes to win. We will provide you with guidance, support, compassion, understanding, expertise, and resources from start to finish. Remember: Choosing the right attorney can have a significant impact on the potential of your case.

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation:

Fill out our online form.
Call us at (585) 460-2193.
Visit us at 650 Clinton Square, Rochester, NY 14604

Mass Tort Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Learn more about mass torts by reviewing answers to the following frequently asked questions.

What is a mass tort lawsuit?
Mass torts are when multiple plaintiffs take legal action against a defendant because of a similar injury or incident. The cases are filed and resolved individually but may be combined for pre-trial proceedings.
What does mass tort litigation mean?
Mass tort litigation is when multiple similar cases are grouped together for pre-trial proceedings. But, unlike class action lawsuits, each case is filed, represented, and resolved separately.
How long does a mass tort case take?
Mass tort cases often take several years to resolve. Some may take months while more complex lawsuits may take a decade or longer.
What is the difference between a mass tort and class action lawsuit?
Mass tort cases are handled individually like personal lawsuits, while class action cases are grouped together with shared representation and a shared resolution with the final award distributed among plaintiffs.
Are mass tort settlements taxable?
Mass tort settlements are usually non-taxable, depending on the type of awarded damages. For example, punitive damages or compensation for lost wages may be taxed. Your attorney and a tax professional can help you understand tax implications.
Are there statutes of limitations on mass torts?
Yes, individuals involved in mass tort litigation are still susceptible to statutes of limitations. You must file your claim within a certain timeframe, often two to three years from the date of injury or diagnosis.
How is the settlement divided for mass tort cases?
Mass tort settlements are awarded individually compared to class action lawsuits where a lump sum is distributed among plaintiffs.
How can I file a mass tort lawsuit?
To file a mass tort lawsuit, schedule a consultation with an attorney to confirm your eligibility and begin gathering evidence to support your case.
What is the average payout in a mass tort claim?
Average payouts for mass tort claims will vary based on the strength and nature of the case. They often result in an award ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000 but can be higher or lower. Contact an attorney to discuss your specific claim.