Mass Torts in Europe: Cases and Reflections


‘Mass Torts in Europe: Cases and Reflections’ deals with cases where a great number of claimants have suffered harm for which compensation is sought in an action against the same defendant. The research project shall discover whether the existing instruments of tort law are sufficient or should be adapted to solve cases of mass torts or whether specific rules would be better.

In cases of mass torts, European jurisdictions often tend to ad hoc resolutions established for a specific case which do not always fit in the traditional system of tort law. These classic rules of tort law on the other hand are made for individual damages of one or a few persons and do not always provide solutions for cases of mass torts. At least on the level of civil procedure it seems reasonable in such cases to strike a different path than the usual one. Be it through a joinder of claims, be it through the famous class actions which are recently intensively discussed for European jurisdictions. This new research project shall discover whether the existing instruments of tort law are sufficient or should be adapted to solve cases of mass torts or whether specific rules would be better.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the legal aspects of mass torts in Europe. Both academics, legislatures, courts and policymakers throughout the whole of Europe have been struggling with the challenges that such ‚massification‘ of private law relationships poses both in and outside of tort law. The subject moves between the law of civil procedure, substantive tort law, access to justice debates and regulatory frameworks for mass disputes. Rather than focussing on country reports and a comparative synthesis, the project is split up in two main parts. The first part consists of case studies of particular incidents of mass tort provided by experts in their field for an insight into the practical operation of the law in the cases at hand. The second part covers general issues, written by outstanding scholars with a broad and comparative vision on the issue at hand.

The project is led by Prof. Willem van Boom (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Prof. Gerhard Wagner (Humboldt-Universität Berlin) and is conducted in co-operation with ECTIL and Munich Re.