Mass Tort Lawyers in West Virginia – Free Case Review

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    Experienced WV Mass Tort Lawyers – Your Ally in Mass Tort Cases

    Perhaps you recently saw an advertisement on social media soliciting participation in a case related to a product you’ve used. Maybe someone brought the possibility of compensation for recent hardship through the legal system to your attention. You might even have received an email or letter in the mail from a law firm suggesting you partake in legal action. 

    Some of these situations may pertain to what is known as a mass tort case. But what does that mean, how does that affect you, and how can Kaufman & McPherson mass tort lawyers help you navigate the process? Let’s find out.

    What is a Mass Tort Case?

    A tort refers to a wrongful act that causes harm to another individual. This might be something proactively done or communicated, or refer to an omission that led to harm. 

    For example, a car manufacturer that produces a model with a faulty seat belt clip might be held liable for damages individuals have suffered as a result. In another example, a pharmaceutical company that fails to adequately convey risks associated with their medication or engages in deceptive marketing practices might also be held liable for the resulting harm done.

    An individual case of such harm would be considered a tort. Litigating such a case alone can be challenging, and prohibitively expensive,  which is part of why you will often see damages pursued by a group of injured individuals as what’s known as a mass tort case. Each case is subject to trial on an individual basis, but resources surrounding the crux of similar arguments may be shared by plaintiffs. 

    Our mass tort lawyers in West Virginia specialize in this area of litigation and can help plaintiffs navigate their legal battles. Get your free case review today.

    Types of Mass Tort Cases

    The relative nascency of mass tort case law and variability in its interpretation throughout the legal system can make it difficult to fully understand its landscape. Current mass tort litigation pretty much relies on the same sorts of claims as those early cases did: someone created and sold something dangerous or lied about its associated risks. 

    Cases Related to Mass Torts And Personal Injury

    But again, this area of the law is still taking shape. The participants in the Agent Orange case likely could not have anticipated the wave of transvaginal mesh cases that were filed in 2012 and 2013. As it stands today, though, there are several loosely defined categories in which mass tort cases related to personal injury might be filed:

    • Dangerous or defective drugs – Should it be found that a drug can cause serious injury or death in those who use it, a drug company may be found liable for damages. The odds of such an action being successful is increased should evidence be found that the company knew there were such risks and either neglected to further research the issue or inform consumers of their existence, as was the case with the Vioxx litigation.
    • Defective medical devices – These cases arise when a non-biological medical aid is used to support bodily function but causes harm to the user. Examples of such litigation include transvaginal mesh and inferior vena cava filter cases.
    • Defective products – Though medical devices could likely fall under this umbrella, product defect cases are typically best understood concerning consumer goods and span a broad range of potential impacts. Product liability cases may deal with issues as varied as apparel fire resistance and negligence in food production or distribution. 
    • Mass toxic exposure – This is another category that could fall under the purview of product defect cases in some instances (such as cancer-linked herbicide by Roundup) but is more often tied to plaintiffs being exposed to a dangerous chemical in a given work or living environment. 
    • Mass disasters – When a major event causes damage to a large group of individuals, involved corporations or public entities may be targeted with litigation in the aftermath. Prior cases in this arena were tied to events like 9/11, Camp Lejeune contaminated water, and Hurricane Katrina.

    The Difference Between Mass Tort and Class Action Litigation

    Technically speaking, class action litigation is a form of mass tort litigation. The way the differences are understood has more to do with colloquial discussion by the public than it does with legal definition. When people seek to distinguish the two, what they are most often drawing a line between is a class action lawsuit and a multidistrict litigation (MDL) case

    In class-action suits, the harms alleged by participants in the legal action fall within a reasonable range of similarities. To make the case, the class action utilizes an individual case as being representative of a “class” of people impacted. Successful plaintiffs ultimately receive largely similar payouts. 

    Even without researching your options or realizing you might be entitled to compensation, you might have received correspondence indicating that an already resolved class action suit entitles you to just that.

    An MDL operates a little differently. Each participant, though their claims may vary in meaningful ways from that of others participating, has suffered harm as the result of the same actions from the same defendant. Their claims stand as individual cases and damages are assessed accordingly. 

    Sometimes Not As Efficient

    This framework is, in some ways, not as efficient as a class-action lawsuit, but it is still a more convenient way to navigate the court system on a given issue, applies pressure on the defendant through the conveyance of the scope of damages, and offers the potential for compensation commensurate to the harm experienced by an individual. 

    Which framework is most appropriate is entirely dependent on the individual case and scope of complaints. In some instances, the framework must be altered to satisfy rulings made by the court. With the previously mentioned asbestos litigation, for instance, the Supreme Court found that the impact of asbestos on human health manifested in such a varied manner that a blanket class action lawsuit was not appropriate, leading instead to a more fractured approach that included ailment-specific class action cases and additional MDL cases.

    What Can I Expect Out of Participation in a Mass Tort Action?

    There’s no way around it: mass tort cases can be notoriously complex and lengthy. A single personal injury case might be resolved in a matter of weeks or months, in some instances. With mass tort cases, that timeline is extended substantially. There are people still waiting on verdicts relating to asbestos mass tort cases initiated more than four decades ago.

    There are several reasons mass tort cases can take so long to resolve. With multiple plaintiffs involved, there is a mountain of personal information, documents, and evidence that must be parsed to build a solid case. The process of sharing such documents among parties, filing and arguing motions, and establishing terms of proceedings through steps like identifying bellwether trials takes time. In this case, it is important to work with an experienced WV personal injury lawyer to get the best outcome for your case.

    The Plantiff’s Role

    Even so, it is still often a more efficient, affordable, and effective route than filing an individual suit. The plaintiff’s resources are pooled, bringing down expenses. Expenditures on things like expert testimony can be lessened as one expert testifies on behalf of multiple plaintiffs at once. Some of the required research will apply to all cases, streamlining the preparation process. And ultimately, a group of 100 people going up against a corporation with similar claims is going to apply more pressure to a large corporation than a single plaintiff alone could.

    What Kind of Compensation Could I Receive?

    How much money a plaintiff receives as a result of mass tort actions depends on several factors. The ask in litigation will likely be tied to the average scope of damages involved, with the impact of harm done on financial, physical, and emotional well-being taken into account.

    How much is received relative to that ask depends on how the case proceeds from there. In some cases, the defendant, hoping to avoid bad PR or handle the situation quickly, will offer a settlement to participants. Taking a settlement is the prerogative of the plaintiff, but it also carries repercussions beyond the plaintiff in question. 

    Settling a Case

    Settling the case can be a means of communicating to other plaintiffs that the defendant is aware of the potential financial consequences, putting them in a strong position to negotiate for a higher amount. It also, however, can cause the mass tort litigation to lose steam as the plaintiff base begins to see attrition. 

    There is, of course, the possibility that the defendant does not choose to offer a settlement or that the plaintiff rejects the offer on the table, forcing the case to trial. The result can vary in this situation, as well. The court may sometimes find the case has merit and order the plaintiff to be awarded the requested amount. The court may also decide whether they be awarded more or less than initially sought. And of course, there is always the possibility that the plaintiff loses, meaning they get no payout at all.

    Even once the amount has been settled, wrapping up the case so that participants are paid can take months. Plaintiff signatures must be collected and filed, after which point the defendant typically has a set amount of time to make good on their promise. 

    WV personal injury attorneys discussing a car accident case

    Let Our Dedicated Mass Tort Attorneys Help

    Mass tort cases are distinctly complicated, though. Understanding the elements involved is difficult enough on its own, but the processes that must follow that understanding can be seemingly impossible to comprehend if you haven’t received training on the subject or possess experience navigating all of the hurdles involved. Determining which mass tort litigation lawyers are the best match for your needs isn’t easy, either.

    At Kaufman & McPherson, we’re ready to be your guide. The experienced mass tort attorneys serving West Virginia at our law firm leverage their expertise to provide information and support as you evaluate your options. As passionate defenders of our client’s best interests, our legal team will be fighting at your side every step of the way.

    Want to learn more about your options? Contact Kaufman & McPherson today for a free consultation.

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    About the Editor

    Kevin Kaufman
    Kevin Kaufman

    Kevin S. Kaufman is a 1977 graduate of Bridgeport High School, where he received a National Merit Scholarship, a Consolidated Natural Gas Company full scholarship, and a West Virginia Achievement scholarship. Mr. Kaufman completed his education at West Virginia University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, an MBA, and his law degree.

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