The Diefenbach law firm investigates mass tort cases, which are civil actions filed in either federal or state court. Mass torts lawyers represent a large number of plaintiffs and one, or a few, corporate defendants. Mass tort cases filed by attorneys differ form other types of lawsuits because they involve a large volume of claims, all of which implicate similar facts and issues. In a mass tort proceeding, different claims may also have interdependent values.The main advantages of mass torts over traditional litigation are efficiency and economies of scale.
Because the plaintiffs in a mass tort proceeding often rely on similar underlying facts to prove their cases and raise similar issues for attorneys, it is often feasible to consolidate some portions of a mass tort proceeding. For example, a trial in a mass tort action may involve several plaintiffs in its first stage, which proves that the defendant’s actions were capable of causing the harm that the plaintiffs suffered, qua mass tort status, thus promoting judicial economy. Although mass tort lawsuits involve an immense amount of paperwork and expenses for plaintiffs’ their counsel, these costs can be shared to some extent by the plaintiffs. Our law firm will investigate your mass tort lawsuit and our contingency fee varies.
Perhaps the most highly publicized mass tort lawsuits involve natural or man-made disasters. Lawsuits that involve chemical pollution or contamination are often referred to as environmental tort lawsuits. One of the first environmental tort lawsuits students of the law become familiar with is that portrayed in the movie, A Civil Action. In this lawsuit, residents of Woburn, Massachusetts alleged that two companies, W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods Co., had been responsible for the contamination of local wells with dangerous chemicals. According to the plaintiffs, the contamination occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. In its aftermath, a number of children in the area were suffering from Leukemia. Five had died by 1986. While the jury found that Beatrice Foods Co. was not liable for the contamination, the case against W.R. Grace reached resolution through a settlement of $8 million for the plaintiffs. W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods Co. were also the defendants in a separate lawsuit, filed by the Environmental Protection Agency, and had to pay $70 million to resolve the charges.
Other mass tort lawsuits can involve dangerous or defective products, such as prescription medications. Mass tort lawsuits consolidated into multi-district litigation proceedings are currently pending over such popular medications as Actos, Fosamax, Tylenol, and Yaz/Yasmin. A high-profile mass tort case that came to a conclusion several years ago was brought against Merck for its drug, Vioxx. Vioxx plaintiffs were either people who had suffered heart attacks after taking the medication, or surviving family members who had lost a loved one due to a Vioxx heart attack. That resulted in a jury verdict against Merck for $ 253 million, prompting Merck to settle Vioxx claims in an unprecedented $ 4.85 billion settlement. Many people felt that Merck left the Vioxx litigation with fairly small losses compared with its net profits from that blockbuster drug.
In today’s complex world, filled with large corporations that produce a huge variety of products, and with environmental disasters often precipitated by toxic waste, mass torts are an increasingly important mechanism for securing justice for the individual. Nevertheless, plaintiffs in mass tort lawsuits face significant hurdles in meeting the burdens of proof required by the law. Science is playing a growing role in helping secure justice for these individuals. Nevertheless, the bars for the scientific proof which plaintiffs face are often quite high.
Scientific studies as well as expert testimony during trial are necessary in proving causation in many mass tort cases. Prior to 1993, the Frye test was used to assess the admissibility of proposed expert testimony. The requirement set by this test was that the testimony an expert would give “must be generally accepted in the relevant field.” This requirement applied to testimony regarding scientific tests, but not to the opinions offered by an expert.
A trilogy of cases decided by the Supreme Court in the 1990s raised the standards that judges use to evaluate the admissibility of expert scientific testimony to be presented at trial. These cases are often referred to as the Daubert trilogy. Their outcome has been reflected in the revised version of Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. This rule requires that expert testimony to be presented at trial must (1) present sufficient facts or data for the fact-finder to reach a conclusion; (2) be based on reliable principles and methods; and (3) present a reliable application of those principles and methods to the facts of the case. Judges have a wide latitude in making these determinations, and these heightened requirements have often served to disqualify the testimony of an expert proposed by the plaintiffs.