The Era of Mass Personal Injury Litigation

For those who were old enough to understand the power and politics of the 1980s, you’d remember this was a period associated with hundreds of thousands of mass personal injury litigation. People heavily protested and many corporations were sued for losses attributed to natural, catastrophic events, medical malpractices and negligence, faulty pharmaceutical products, or harmful substances.

These businesses and their insurance companies ended up paying billions of dollars in the form of building strong court cases, indemnification, and lawyers representing the plaintiffs closed the day rich and happy. What had just happened was an absolute shock to those corporations and this developed the apparition of mass liability by the insurers from certain markets that proved costly when it comes to litigation settlements.

The emergence of mass personal injury litigation was mainly attributed to diverse social interactions, trends, increased tastes and preferences for products, and mass marketing products — which particular exposed the public to potentially toxic and sub-standard products. But the FDA was also facing its fair share of challenges and the weakness within the system allowed more people to be exposed to harmful products hence mass injuries. Product liability especially accounts for the highest case of mass personal injury litigation.

Now came the era of technology, and from the year 2000, the internet became a thing and an integral part of people’s lifestyles. It’s what made the “world a village”. Social media later doubled as a marketing platform and it had a huge impact on how people literally live. From where to shop, eat, hang out with friends, propose to online shops, retailers, and manufacturers, social influences from the mass media were powerful. This, in turn, ushered the new breed of plaintiff law firms that helped the filing of mass tort claims.

The silver lining, however, for social media is that majority are now exposed to information and can understand the relationship between injuries and product exposure, how to go about the liability claim, and pitfall to avoid potential litigation. Product liability laws and regulations allowed the victims to sue for pharmaceuticals liability, pollution liability and product manufacturers. Doctrinal development and a lot of grey areas influenced the evolution of key civil procedures to facilitate the dispute process.

The change in procedures brought the possibility of resolving mass personal injury litigation as a single trial outcome. However, mass torts are still not easy to resolve because of several reasons. They include:

  • Conflict of interest An ideal personal injury suit involves two parties each represented with an attorney who works with them in building their case. And an unbiased judge who really doesn’t care. But in mass tort claims, there are no two conflicting interests. The change in court processes and how difficult it became to get court trial bookings, made it difficult for mass tort claims.
  • Challenges in establishing the causes of latent injuries

    Product liability is hard to prove and there’s a lot of uncertainties for scientific evidence linking injury to product use or exposure. Additionally, judges and juries had varying ways of evaluating the scientific evidence so there’s wasn’t standards that could substantially prove product liability.

  • Factual and Legal Issues Mass litigation are only viable if both parties — attorneys and defendants, can see the value for pursuing the claim in terms of time and capital. From the initial stages of litigation, there should be a clear goal to negotiate a better settlement but this will need you to assess the uncertainties, and what’s at stake.
  • Common Risk of Mass Litigation Both parties involved in the dispute need face different risks and this is what determines the course of the litigation as it starts to break in different ways. The success of litigation can mean different things for plaintiffs and defendants. On the plaintiffs’ side, losing a case is determined with the input the firm injects in the process. But for defendants, losing litigation early is determined by the legal costs and other pending claims that can positively affect the current claim.

Mass personal injury litigation brings a unique challenge to the civil justice system that has led to procedural innovations in trying to find efficient methods of resolving these cases.

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