Mass Tort Class Actions - Past, Present, and Future

18 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2017 Last revised: 10 Aug 2017

Date Written: July 20, 2017


The judicial experiment with mass tort class actions was an anemic one, albeit somewhat spectacular in a few cases that have captured the academic and professional imagination. This Essay explains that the reason mass tort class actions never thrived is that there is a disconnect between tort doctrine on the one hand, and tort theories and procedures on the other. Tort doctrine has largely failed to accommodate social scientific developments in fields such as epidemiology. Tort theories such as risk-spreading and deterrence, as well as the procedural law, especially common-law like informal procedural ordering, have taken social scientific developments into account. For this reason, collective procedures are able to dominate mass tort resolution despite the doctrine's limitations. The future of the mass tort class action depends on tort doctrine’s ability to take risk, probability, and the possibilities of statistical proof into account.

Keywords: Products Liability, Mass Torts, Class Action

JEL Classification: K13, K41

Suggested Citation

Lahav, Alexandra D., Mass Tort Class Actions - Past, Present, and Future (July 20, 2017). New York University Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

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