What Is a Multidistrict Litigation?

October 17, 2020

Lawsuits involving dangerous and defective drugs rarely impact just one person. Often, hundreds or even thousands of patients can suffer the same injuries due to these medications — and because the same manufacturer’s negligence contributes to these injuries, a large number of people may file similar claims against one defendant. To streamline this process, multidistrict litigation (MDL) can help courts better manage and settle these claims.

Which Claims Fall Under MDL?

MDL is a federal procedure where civil lawsuits are transferred to a single court, even if the plaintiffs file their claims in different states. An MDL can involve hundreds or thousands of individual claims, as well as several class action lawsuits, but each case must have one or more questions of fact in common.
MDLs help save time and money for the courts, and also ensure that lawsuits that involve similar allegations against the same defendant or group of defendants see fair and similar outcomes. Common types of claims that often fall under MDL include the following.

  • Defective and dangerous drugs
  • Defective medical devices
  • Airplane crash injuries
  • Securities fraud
  • Intellectual property infringement
  • Unfair employment practices

The Stages of an MDL

When multiple plaintiffs file similar claims against the same entity or group of entities, the attorneys representing the injured may request the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to create an MDL to consolidate the lawsuits. After the JPML creates the MDL, the court will appoint a group of attorneys to coordinate pretrial proceedings.
The case will then enter the discovery phase, where the parties will exchange evidence, depose witnesses, and review arguments in preparation for trial. Once discovery is complete, the judge overseeing the case will select a handful of individual lawsuits to proceed to bellwether trials.
Bellwether trials act as a test for the remaining claims within the MDL. They help predict whether the plaintiffs will see a favorable outcome and whether or not it would be in the defendant’s best interest to settle the claim. For example, if the at-fault party loses the majority of the bellwether trials, they may want to settle the remaining claims instead of entering the courtroom again.
After the bellwether trials, the attorneys will decide the plaintiffs’ next steps depending on the outcome. If the bellwether trials are successful, the attorneys may attempt to reach a global settlement with the defendant.
The court will then divide the settlement based on a number of agreed-upon factors, such as individual injuries, the age of each plaintiff, and any potential complications. If the trials are unsuccessful or the company refuses to settle, each attorney may pursue individual claims in the court where the plaintiff originally filed.

Hiring an Attorney for an MDL Case

Facing corporate legal teams in the courtroom or during negotiations can be difficult. Any case involving dangerous or defective products, severe injuries, and high amounts of damages requires the knowledge and assistance of an attorney. If you are the victim of a company’s negligence and believe your case may qualify for legal action, speaking to a lawyer can help you understand the options available to you, including the possibility of MDL.
Your attorney can examine the evidence, speak to witnesses and experts who can validate your claims, and find similar claims to see if you qualify for MDL. Schedule a consultation immediately after seeking medical treatment to begin the claims process.