To understand the potential outcomes of a mass tort litigation, it’s first important to understand how these lawsuits work.
Mass tort litigations are an important type of lawsuit in which a corporation or entity is held accountable for physical or financial injuries caused to a large number of people. In these cases, there are a variety of injuries, but they are all caused by the same chemical, product, or device. Those specific injuries become very important as a litigation progresses.
It’s All About the Science
Throughout the trial process, both parties gather science-based evidence to prove their arguments. Plaintiffs’ attorneys set out to prove that the product, device, or chemical caused all of the injuries that plaintiffs sustained; defense attorneys attempt to dispute this evidence by countering with their own experts and arguments.
There are many factors that go into which studies and experts are allowed into trial and which ones are not. Ultimately, however, the scientific evidence must point to causation – that is to say, the facts must show that the defendants’ products or actions are the cause of all of the plaintiffs’ injuries.
Ultimately, it comes down to science.
When someone files a claim in a mass tort lawsuit, there are mainly three potential outcomes: trial, settlement, or dismissal.
A small percentage of these cases will go to trial, and a jury will decide their fate. These bellwether trials not only determine an outcome for a relatively small number of plaintiffs, they also indicate to both plaintiffs and defendants how a jury will likely view the presented facts for similar cases.
Cases that go to trial are the riskiest of claims. Plaintiffs go through considerably more stress and preparation than those who do not go to trial. Every jury is different, and sometimes even strong cases are lost in court. Bellwether cases are “all or nothing” cases. They either win or they lose, with nothing in between.
When a plaintiff wins a bellwether trial, they are typically awarded considerably more compensation than any potential settlement because there is considerably more risk involved.
The outcomes of bellwether trials have a significant effect on other cases, particularly those with similar injuries and facts. For example, if one or more trials are held regarding a specific type of injury and jurors decide there is not enough scientific evidence to support that injury claim, it may affect other plaintiffs who have filed cases based on similar injuries.
Likewise, if a case does well in trial, it bodes well for other cases involving similar facts and injuries.
Mass Tort Settlements
For the majority of cases, settlements are reached. Once both sides determine in court what the probable outcomes are for specific types of injuries, they usually (eventually) come to an agreement over how much compensation people with each type of injury is eligible to receive.
Of course, plaintiffs are often eager for a settlement, particularly if they have waited years for resolution.
Defendants, on the other hand, are often content to wait out the process for as long as possible. They want to keep their losses to a minimum. They also know that, for every dollar they have in their hands, they’ll continue to make money from investments and compounding interest. Their goal is to hold on to their money for as long as they can to keep compounding their dollars, then pay out the least amount possible to satisfy claims.
In fact, most defendants don’t get serious about settling until the prospect of going to court becomes riskier than paying damages. The wait is almost always painstaking for plaintiffs, many of whom have serious medical conditions, mounting medical bills, and other very real concerns.
Most of the time, science supports plaintiffs’ claims that a specific product is responsible for their injury. Sometimes, however, that’s not the case. When claims must be dismissed, it is heartbreaking for all involved – including our attorneys, whose passion is obtaining justice for those who have been wronged. We never take this responsibility lightly.
When a mass tort litigation begins, the attorneys involved consider all of the evidence available at the time. As the discovery and trial process moves forward, sometimes over a period of years, there are times when the emerging science either doesn’t prove causation, or it disproves a link between the product and an injury.
Unfortunately, the reality is that some cases may not move forward. There are no guarantees in any lawsuit. If the scientific evidence does not support a group of claims, plaintiffs’ attorneys are forced to either dismiss those claims or put them in what’s called “inventory” with the hope that either new evidence will arise or that a settlement can be reached in which those plaintiffs are able to receive some form of compensation for their injuries.
We are always devastated when cases need to be dismissed. In a perfect world, we’d like everyone we represent to receive compensation, and we leave no stone unturned in an effort to make that happen. Unfortunately, we are always working with evolving science, and a lawsuit is only as strong as the facts that support it.
Our OnderLaw team always does everything within our power to hold corporations accountable when research and science support a claim. We also do our best to treat you and your case with honesty and transparency.
Need representation? We’d be honored to help. Call 866-384-5060 for a free, no-obligation consultation.