Mass Torts: What Are They? | Expectation vs. Reality

June 20, 2019 | Mass Torts

Common Definition:  What is a mass tort?

A mass tort is a civil action involving many plaintiffs against one or a few defendants in a state or federal court. The term tort derives from the French word for ‘wrong’.

Many Americans will retain a mass tort lawyer in their lifetimes to ensure their best chance for financial recovery after experiencing a personal loss due to product usage, job-related or medical injury, and other causes.

Class Action vs. Mass Tort:  What You Need to Know

Mass Torts are usually filed individually, but both Class Action Lawsuits and Mass Torts are concerned with large numbers of people who have suffered similar harm as a result of an organization’s wrongful act.

Class Action litigant rights are protected as a whole class, these provide legal recourse to those who don’t want to invest in costly individual legal fees and litigation.

Mass Tort litigants are more likely to have suffered emotionally, financially and physically, and are entitled to recoup the level of compensation equal to the harm suffered, by filing an individual lawsuit.

What Are the Benefits of MDL in a Mass Tort Action?

Multi-district litigation or MDL is a federal legal consolidation of lawsuits filed in multiple district courts. It is designed to expedite the process of the proceedings in often complex mass tort actions involving drug and medical device lawsuits.

Benefits of the MDL include eliminating inconsistent pretrial hearings, avoiding the same discovery processes, and conserving time to provide better usage of resources for both the litigants and the judiciary.

Examples of Mass Tort Practice Areas

Transvaginal Mesh

Transvaginal mesh is a thin material used to treat pelvic organ prolapse. Though the bladder is one of the most common organs to prolapse, other organs can also drop or shift from their usual place in the body, including the small bowel, rectum, vagina and uterus.  The TVM is used to hold these organs in place. Complications have included organ perforation, mesh erosion and shrinking, and infections from the TVM materials. Visit our Mesh Resource Center to learn more.

Hernia Mesh

There are around 700,000 abdominal hernia surgeries performed annually in the U.S. Hernia mesh is a medical device placed after hernia surgery to reduce the risk of reoccurrence. Bowel and organ obstruction can occur with hernia mesh, and starting in 2014, the FDA issued the first of its Safety Communications to warn the public of complications and health risks of hernia mesh placements.


Invokana has been linked to a possibly fatal condition called ketoacidosis, and studies show people taking the drug are also at increased risk for the need for amputations. Patients who were prescribed Invokana for Type 2 Diabetes have also developed severe urinary tract infections, such as pyelonephritis and are at elevated risk for stroke, heart attack and kidney disease.

3M Combat Earplugs

3M Combat Arms Earplugs were issued to active duty servicemen and women between 2003 and 2015:  3M knowingly supplied defective earplugs to the U.S. military, which were used during deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Litigants are experiencing hearing loss, including tinnitus, and other hearing-related conditions.

Round Up

Monsanto commercialized the use of glyphosate in the 1970s, and the product has been used widely for over 40 years. Besides using Round Up to kill weeds around your yard, the product is also used on a large scale to spray crops in the U.S. and globally.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization, has ruled glyphosate a ‘probable human carcinogen.’


Talc manufacturers, specifically Johnson and Johnson, have known for 40 years about the link between talc and ovarian cancer, having conducted tests that were positive for asbestos, both in finished talc products and raw talc. The company failed to warn women that using talc on undergarments, feminine products and the like could cause increased risk of Ovarian Cancer.


A leading litigation center for the past 3 years, Risperdal cases are primarily concerned with improper marketing of the drug to children and their families; with allegations that the drug causes the growth of breast tissue in young men, a condition called gynecomastia.

Mass Torts:  Expectation vs. Reality

Jerise Henson, director of client services at The Dunken Law Firm, says that keeping open lines of communication with clients during each phase of the litigation process is key.  ‘We’ve developed a high-touch client interface that allows us to truly be a resource for them, which is what we want.”

“It can be difficult because oftentimes, the clients have different ideas in terms of timeframes, and when they’ll see a final recovery,” said Henson.  ‘We have communications schedules for each step in our process: Marketing, Intake, Medical Work-Up, Pre-Litigation, Litigation, and Settlement/Disbursement.”

“Being upfront about the process and dealing with some of those unrealistic expectations builds trust and turns clients into brand ambassadors.”

Here’s a look at some of those mass tort expectations vs. reality:

Mass Tort Expectations

Plaintiff expects that they will:

  • receive a financial recovery shortly after officially signing with a firm
  • receive the full financial judgment available
  • provide most of the information regarding claim when initially signing with a firm, and not during the rest of the process, the legal team does everything else
  • not need to check in with their case manager periodically, they will know everything from initial paperwork except final recovery information

Mass Tort Realities

Plaintiff realistically will experience:

  • a longer timeframe until recovery
  • periodic ‘lulls’ during litigation period
  • multiple medical and other records requests that may require additional information
  • questions regarding how long family can go without financial recovery
  • ongoing legal, financial, media consulting and emotional support

If you think you might have a case in Round Up. Hernia Mesh, 3M Combat Earplugs or IVC Filters, fill out our contact form to speak to a Dunken Law Firm case manager.