Mass Tort vs Class Action Lawsuits

A recent article in Canadian Lawyer magazine asked whether Canadian personal injury law firms should maintain ‘the traditional class action approach in Canada or … move towards more of an American model.’ At a time when our law firm is pursuing multiple class action lawsuits against long-term care owners, operators, and facilities that have been negligent amid COVID-19, this question appears particularly pertinent. In this article, we will review the differences between class action and mass tort lawsuits, the benefits of each, and the how the Canadian and American systems differ.

What are Class Action Lawsuits?

A class action lawsuit is one in which one or more plaintiffs – referred to as the class representative or representatives – bring a claim against a defendant in hopes of representing other plaintiffs who suffered similar damages at the hands of the same defendant.

This process is designed to create a level playing field between plaintiffs and large companies or corporations. It also lets individuals who may not be able to afford a lawyer pursue compensation, and creates a more streamlined process than if each individual plaintiff were to file their claims individually.

There are downsides to class action lawsuits, however. For example, proposed class actions must reach certain requirements in order to be certified by the courts. The commonality requirement, for example, mandates that the plaintiffs’ damages must be similar, so if a large group of prospective plaintiffs suffered a variety of injuries at the hands of a common defendant, they may not be able to pursue a class action claim. Recently, changes to Ontario’s Class Proceedings Act brought in the predominance and superiority requirements, as well; more on that a little later.

Once the requirements are met and the proceeding is certified, individual plaintiffs are lumped into a monolithic ‘class,’ meaning the compensation they receive will be divided equally, not according to who was most injured.

What are Mass Tort Lawsuits?

Like class actions, mass tort lawsuits involve numerous plaintiffs taking legal action against a single defendant, generally a large company or organization. In mass torts, however, plaintiffs are treated as a group of individuals rather than as a class. Each individual must prove certain facts about their claim, and the compensation they receive will be based on the damages they incurred. 

The main downside to mass torts is that they are extremely complex. Whereas class action lawsuits seek compensation for identical or similar damages, resolving a mass tort lawsuit requires assigning compensation to each plaintiff depending on the severity of their injuries. Resolving a mass tort can take longer than resolving a class action, but the reward for the most seriously injured plaintiffs may be worth the wait.

Changes to the Class Proceedings Act

As mentioned above, Ontario recently added two new requirements – predominance and superiority – that proposed class actions must meet in order to be certified.

According to Law Times, the predominance requirement states that plaintiffs ‘will have to show that questions of fact or law common to the class predominate over questions affecting individual class members,’ and the superiority requirement means ‘plaintiffs must show that a class proceeding is superior to all other reasonably available options for solving the dispute.’

Both new requirements make it more difficult for a class action to be certified, which prompted the question posed in the Canadian Lawyer article.

Traditional Class Actions vs US-Style Mass Torts

While class actions have traditionally been the preferred vehicle for launching mass claims in Canada, Americans have more often relied on mass torts. According to Canadian Lawyer, this is due in part to the fact that American consumers are essentially not allowed to pursue claims against medical device makers or drug companies via class actions.

With the recent addition of the predominance and superiority requirements, however, some lawyers believe mass torts may gain prominence.

“It will be interesting to see what comes of that change and whether or not the class action will remain the preferred proceeding in Canada over some kind of mass tort proceeding,” one lawyer told Canadian Lawyer.

Contact Will Davidson LLP

The lawyers at Will Davidson LLP have represented clients in class action and mass tort proceedings for decades. The recent lawsuits we initiated against long-term care providers are excellent examples of large groups of plaintiffs coming together to pursue compensation for common complaints – most notably egregious negligence in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about our long-term care class action lawsuits, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.

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Nursing Home Negligence

Nursing Home Negligence

There comes a time in a person’s life, where they or their family members need to decide if a long-term facility, such as a nursing home, is the right move. One needs to be ensured that they will be taken care of in a nursing home and that no negligence will occur. Families worry about their loved ones just as much, and it is important for all that their mother, father, grandparents or any other relative is safe in a nursing home and does not fall victim to nursing home negligence. Although there are many fantastic nursing homes out there, there are many cases of nursing home negligence. In today’s era of aging baby boomers, nursing homes will only get busier, and thus more negligence cases may arise.

Nursing Home NegligenceNursing home negligence can be physical or emotionally caused. For example, in 2013, CTV news reported that an 85 year old woman was being mistreated in a nursing home in Peterborough Ontario. She was seen having a feces-covered rag waved in her face and also having her diaper changed with the door wide-open. There were also suspicious circumstances surrounding a black eye and bruises. Another example of nursing home negligence includes a growing concern regarding residents being given potentially lethal anti psychotic drugs, which can be used to help aggression and acting out. There are certain types of these drugs that can cause severe adverse reactions and many residents, who are not even prescribed these drugs, have been victim to this adverse reaction as they have been ingesting the drug. Other types of nursing home negligence include dropping residents, yelling at residents, neglecting residents and leaving residents unattended for hours upon hours, which can create bedsores. According to the Long-Term Care Homes Act, Nursing homes have a zero-tolerance policy for any time of negligence or abuse. Therefore,  if negligence occurs, those people injured, should be compensated.

Nursing homes are expected to provide a safe environment for those living there, and many are! A nursing home should be a clean, happy and pleasant place where people can live without worry of negligence. However, if you are a resident of a nursing home, or you are a loved one of a nursing home resident, that has been victim to nursing home negligence, do not hesitate to contact our personal injury law firm to find out what your legal rights are.

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Class actions vs. Mass Tort Litigation

judge gavelThere are many reasons why class actions may commence. The basic reason is that a group of people have all been harmed in a similar way. This could be, but not necessarily,  as a result of product, company, or environmental issues. All of these may require a class action or mass tort litigation for those impacted to receive compensation.

 

When a person purchases something, whether for medical reasons or simply “just because”, there is a certain trust we as consumers have that the product will not be defective. On many occasions, a defective product is not the end of the world. One may simply need to call the company and request a new product. On the other hand, there are times when a defective product can cause serious health, economic and psychological issues, in which the consumer deserves compensation accordingly, which is when a class action or mass tort litigation action may be necessary. A class action or mass tort litigation action can arise when it is not only one consumer that has been impacted by the defective product.

One of Will Davidson’s defective product experiences is with allegedly defective pelvic mesh devices, where hundreds of plaintiffs have come forward with claims. Will Davidson had to decide the best way to proceed for their clients and the claimants of this action. Therefore, the following is an important question: What is the difference between a class action and mass tort litigation?

In class actions, the plaintiffs involved need to fall under a strict “commonality” requirement, amongst other things. Remember that class actions are tried together-as one. An example of the consequences of this, is the following: When a settlement is paid out, it is split between the parties. Therefore, you may not get as much as you feel fair in class actions. In class actions, all plaintiffs are in it together and there are many restrictions and court proceedings that need to be followed to ensure a proper class action. Despite the complications, certification, which is the ability to begin a class action, is a lot less difficult in Canada than it is in the States. This is a positive reason to proceed under this umbrella.

Mass Tort Litigation: Mass tort litigation allows for individuality. The commonality requirement is not there as it is in class actions. Defective products, although they might injure many people, may not cause the exact injury and therefore, a commonality requirement is difficult to satisfy. This is one of the positive reasons why one should proceed under mass tort litigation.

In the end, individual circumstances are the deciding factor as to whether a case proceeds in a class action or individually with mass tort litigation. As courts get more and more comfortable with these types of cases, either the class action route or the mass tort litigation route, may come out as the winner. Despite the “newness” of these types of class action legal proceedings in Canada, do not be afraid to take on who you need to, to get the compensation you deserve! If you have sustained personal injury from a defective product, do not hesitate to contact our personal injury law firm to find out about your legal rights.

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