Editor’s note: This is the first article in a two-part feature examining ethical considerations in mass tort representation.

What happens when lawyers find themselves with cases that look like class actions, with high numbers of individual plaintiffs, but are not eligible for class action treatment, usually because each case is unique on its facts or has unique damages? Mass cases — usually but not always tort claims, such as allegations about toxic pollution or defective drugs — have become more and more common, but the ethical rules that govern them remain unchanged. Despite multiple parties with similar complaints, these cases are individual representations, not class actions, and the same ethical rules that apply to lawyers who represent two clients will apply equally to lawyers representing hundreds.

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