The Lyon Firm is actively involved in Class Action and Mass Tort Litigation on behalf of consumers nationwide. Class Action Lawsuits are complex litigation cases that require a skilled attorney with the resources to litigate on behalf of the individual and putative class.
A Class Action is a lawsuit brought by an individual on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals. Rule 23 of the Federal and State Rules of Civil Procedure allows for Class Action lawsuits to resolve disputes in an efficient format.
Class Actions are typically filed when the amount of money in dispute for a single plaintiff would not justify litigating the case, but where the amount of damages of the entire class of Plaintiffs would justify the cost of litigation. Without class actions, large corporate defendants would be able to cause small amounts of harm over a large group of individuals without any risk of monetary penalty.
Joe Lyon is a Cincinnati Class Action Attorney who has represented thousands of individuals in Class Action claims both in Ohio and nationally.
In order for a case to be certified as a Class Action, the Court must determine that the case is appropriate for class action treatment under Rule 23. There are different elements depending on whether the case is seeking monetary or injunctive relief. In general, the Court must find the following elements are satisfied:
“A lot of people confuse the term class action with the term mass tort. The cases that involve injuries from pharmaceutical products are properly classified as mass tort. There are some similarities with class actions, but they are not class actions in the traditional sense. From my perspective, this is a very good thing. We are able to consolidate our cases for the purposes of discovery, which allows us to work in conjunction with firms around the country who are dealing with the same or similar issues. This creates efficiencies within the system that allow individuals to move forward against some of the most powerful companies in the world. Without the ability to consolidate, we would be expending tremendous amounts of resources on one individual case, and the economics of that system may not justify moving forward.
“But, from a practical sense, we often get asked the question, ‘What can I expect from my case as we move forward with the consolidation process with cases from around the country?’ The most common format for consolidation is through what’s called multi-district litigation, or an MDL. When your case is accepted by my firm and we move forward through the MDL process, the first thing we will ask you to do is to complete what’s called a plaintiff fact sheet. A plaintiff fact sheet is a very concise form of discovery that’s going to ask things such as, ‘When did you first take the medication?,’ ‘How long did you take the medication?,’ ‘When did you first have the side effect being claimed in the litigation?,’ ‘What doctors prescribed the medication?,’ and ‘What doctors treated you for the respective injuries?’ Typically the plaintiff fact sheet doesn’t go into a lot more detail than that because the parties are trying to gather and compile information that is the same or similar across the broad spectrum of all the plaintiffs in the case. When you have thousands of cases pending, it’s important to simply try to categorize the cases in order to understand where the similarities or dissimilarities may lie.
“Once the plaintiff fact sheet has been submitted, there’s also medical authorizations that will need to be completed for the defendants. My firm will, at that point, have gathered most of the critical medical records in order to substantiate the case, but the defendants will also have the opportunity to review and gather that evidence themselves.
“Once that information has been exchanged, the process moves forward into what’s called a bellwether selection process. The bellwether process allows the courts and the lawyers to select particular cases from the broader pool of litigation for the purposes of understanding what the value may be of the case where the strengths and the weaknesses of both the defendants and the plaintiffs cases may lie. It’s done in an effort to try to hopefully come up with some sort of value of what the global resolution may look like, and hopefully to come to some finality in the case.
“When cases are consolidated it’s important to understand certain aspects of the litigation. While your case may not be presented directly before the judge, certain questions of science that are ruled upon may impact your case. The process is known as a Daubert hearing or Daubert process, but this scientific hearing and scientific inquiry, typically on whether the particular drug can cause a particular disease. The answer to that question will typically dictate whether the individual case will move forward, or whether the litigation as a whole may be dismissed.
“Once the primary questions of science are answered through the court, which apply globally to the litigation, the next step is to select certain cases for trial. Those cases are designed to be representative of the broad pool of cases in the litigation so that the attorneys for both sides, and the court, can have a better sense of what is representative of this mass tort as a whole.
“To go back to the original question, you know, ‘Is my case a class action or a mass tort?’ There are a lot of similarities between the two, due to the immense volume of cases surrounding the litigation. In the common, we refer to these as common questions of law that overlap between many of the cases in the litigation.
“That being said, your case is ultimately, your case. The injuries that you suffered are unique to you. How these injuries have impacted your life and your family are unique to you, the amount of money that has been lost through lost wages or through your medical expenses; those are questions that are unique to you and will be worked up individually. If the settlement process is unsuccessful, my firm is in a position to push the case forward and to ultimately pursue your day in court as an individual, and not part of a class action.”
Medical Device Litigation, Pharmaceutical Litigation, and other toxic tort litigation is not appropriate for Class Action treatment. Specifically, cases that involve injuries to the parties contain too many individual facts in terms of the science and causation to find that the common issues predominate over the individual facts.
On the other hand, complex litigation that impacts many individuals and contain common questions of fact related to the conduct of the defendant are often appropriate for mass tort consolidation. Mass Tort consolidation in federal multi-district litigation or a State mass tort docket, allows the parties to utilize the efficiency of class action litigation through the discovery process but still allows the parties to litigate their cases individually on the critical issues of whether the conduct caused the alleged injuries.
While our human bodies are very similar, each individual’s body may have reacted differently to the toxic exposure that makes Class Action treatment inappropriate in most personal injury lawsuits.
Filing Class Action lawsuits is a complex and serious legal course and can carry monetary sanctions if proper legal course is not followed.
If you have a question about Class Action lawsuits and are willing to represent the proposed class, please contact The Lyon Firm for a no-cost and confidential consultation.