What’s the difference between a class action and a mass tort lawsuit? Class action lawsuits can get a bad name because they may sometimes give lawyers a nice payday while offering meager compensation for class representatives. Class action lawsuits are most often launched to change some questionable, negligent, or criminal behavior on the part of a corporation. Class action lawsuits are not typically launched to deliver a big payday for the people who are called upon to act as class representatives.
Those who have received a small, inconsequential check from an insurance company like Allstate or State Farm, or perhaps from a bankrupted investment company (maybe getting pennies on the dollar) will understand. In many of those types of class action lawsuits, perhaps as many as a million people were either overcharged or somehow misled by a company they trusted. The class action settlement divided among so many brings the total for each way down, though their lawyer representatives may end up with a large fee as part of the settlement.
The nature of class action lawsuits is the reason why they often seem to fail real people, at least in the short term. The goal of a class action is not only to punish the offending corporation, but to change laws to put an end to the behavior that triggered the lawsuit.
Hot Fuel Litigation
The so-called “hot fuel” class action litigation is a good example of a class action lawsuit brought for worthy reasons. Hot fuel is a term meant to help explain the reason the litigation was necessary. For at least 100 years, gas and oil companies have known that consumers were often not getting the BTU’s (British Thermal Units) listed on the gas pump. A BTU is the amount of energy provided by the gasoline. However, when temperatures rise above 60 degrees (the typical temperature in underground holding tanks), the gas begins to vaporize and lose BTU’s. Consumers, consequently, don’t get the BTU’s for which they are paying.
Matthews & Associates Law Firm was involved in the hot fuel litigation several years ago, but in the large majority of its cases, the firm does not handle class action lawsuits.
Class Action can Makes Sense
“Our firm handles virtually all of its cases on an individual basis,” says firm founder David Matthews. “With hot fuel, it made a certain amount of sense to prosecute as a class action. That was really the only way it could be done, to try to get gas companies to calibrate our BTU losses with the kinds of technology at the gas pumps which they use for airlines and other commercial concerns. The litigation didn’t lead to that kind of change, but I still feel it was a worthwhile goal. It could have potentially saved billions of dollars for consumers across the board.”
Class Action vs. Mass Tort
We usually handle what are known as mass torts, as opposed to class action lawsuits. But there’s really nothing mass about mass torts, the way we handle them. We pursue and prosecute each case on its own merits. It only stands to reason that people who have differing injuries deserve different compensation.
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- Class Action vs. Mass Tort Lawsuit