Class Actions and Mass Torts

By shifting the focus of the class action debate to improving the way these suits are litigated, antagonists can find common ground

Long a matter of controversy, public debate about class action lawsuits was reinvigorated in 1991 when the Civil Rules Advisory Committee took up the issue of whether mass tort lawsuits should be certified as class actions. As the issue mushroomed into an ideological debate about the social purposes of class actions, the rule reform process was brought to a halt.

In 1996, a team of ICJ researchers began an effort to describe the current landscape of class actions for money damages and to study the practices and outcomes of these suits. The result was Class Action Dilemmas: Pursuing Public Goals for Private Gain, a comprehensive, book-length study published in 2000.

The ICJ's next phase of research into aggregated forms of litigation will focus on new developments in mass torts and class action practice such as multi-district litigation status, social policy class actions, and international class actions.