A large hospital system agreed to pay $123 million to more than 80 children who suffered abuse as the result of its alleged negligent supervision of a pediatrician. The case is an example of how the class action model can help even the odds between individual plaintiffs and large, sophisticated defendants.
Class action lawsuits allow individuals to band together to sue on the basis of a common injury. In many cases, the same defendant harms a large number of people. Without class action suits, many of those harms would go unpunished.
In this case, a hospital and its other doctors apparently failed to prevent another doctor from abusing child patients on a regular basis for several years.
Although the doctor himself is already imprisoned and serving 14 life sentences in the case, the families and victims can still pursue the parties who allowed his crimes to occur: the employer and other doctors who were in a position to do something.
The lawsuit alleged that all of the defendants suspected that the doctor was committing horrible crimes but that they did not report him to authorities.
By coming together as a class, the victims were able to force an appropriate settlement from the defendants. As the familiar maxim says, there is safety in numbers. In the world of large-scale litigation, it might as well be "justice in numbers."
Source: Washington Post, "Attorneys reach $123M settlement in class-action lawsuit in pedophile pediatrician's abuse," Oct. 10, 2012