What is a multidistrict litigation (MDL)?

When many plaintiffs plan to file a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages for the same type of litigation, they have the right to band together and file a class action lawsuit to consolidate the same types of legal action. For example, thousands of plaintiffs sought monetary damages from Bayer in response to the highly negative health consequences of using the company’s herbicide product Roundup. Instead of hundreds of plaintiffs suing Bayer to recover the losses caused by using the herbicide, the individual plaintiffs formed a class to file one unified civil lawsuit to address the cancer-causing effects of spreading the herbicide on lawns and farmland.

When a class action lawsuit addresses the negative consequences of using a product such as the herbicide Roundup, the federal judicial system has the legal power to assign the case for review in the multidistrict litigation process. What is multidistrict litigation (MDL)? The MDL process involves combining several individual civil lawsuits into one lawsuit that litigates in a single federal district court. The single federal district court processes every legal action taken, including the discovery and trial proceeding phases of the litigation process. Multidistrict litigation’s primary goal is to conserve financial resources to encourage consistent court rulings for many individual lawsuits that address the same legal issue.

The class action attorneys at Morgan and Morgan help clients file and join class action lawsuits that foster the settlement of several cases under the umbrella of one legal action. With a nationwide presence, our team of class action lawyers helps clients understand the benefits of filing a class action lawsuit, as well as describe why multidistrict litigation represents the best process for hundreds, if not thousands of similar cases.

Schedule a free case evaluation today with an experienced class action attorney from Morgan and Morgan to learn more about the MDL process.

What Are the Goals of MDL?

More than 50 years ago, the United States Congress created the multidistrict litigation process to consolidate complex federal lawsuits litigated in several districts into one civil lawsuit processed under the oversight of one judge in one federal judicial district. The primary goal of MDL is to process many similar cases into one case to enhance the efficiency of the judicial system. By consolidating several similar civil cases, the parties involved in the litigation process save both time and money. 

Consolidating similar civil cases also dramatically reduces the number of cases processed through the judicial system. This speeds up the judicial process for the remaining civil lawsuits scheduled for litigation on the federal court system docket. Going through the MDL judicial process also allows one judge to recommend to all parties involved to consider negotiating a settlement instead of taking a case to trial.

What Types of Cases Go Through the MDL Process?

Multidistrict litigation is especially helpful for resolving large civil cases that involve complicated legal issues. The most publicized use of the MDL process concerns cases that link a company with a product that causes the development of cancer symptoms in users of the product. For example, the Bayer Roundup class action lawsuit found its way to multidistrict litigation to address the highly complex healthcare issues that arose from describing the negative impact of cancer symptoms. 

Another type of case that goes through the MDL process concerns dangerous prescription drugs that produce unhealthy even fatal side effects. The healthcare industry also gets involved in MDL with civil lawsuits that allege certain medical devices have caused consumers harm. Other common types of cases that reach multidistrict litigation include airplane crashes, securities fraud, and intellectual property infringement.

How Does the Multidistrict Litigation Process Work?

The United States Panel on Multidistrict Litigation determines whether multiple similar civil lawsuits should consolidate into a multidistrict litigation proceeding. According to federal law, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appoints a panel of seven members. The seven-member panel then meets to decide whether civil cases under judicial review should transfer to one federal district court.

During a case sent to MDL, a judge presides over the case in the same manner as civil court judges preside over individual civil lawsuits. The judge rules on pretrial motions, discovery proceedings, and settlement negotiations. MDL judges have the legal power to dismiss plaintiffs, as well as end class action lawsuits for a wide variety of reasons, including lack of sufficient evidence. An MDL judge also can remove plaintiffs that are part of a class action lawsuit because their cases are better handled through the filing of individual civil lawsuits that seek monetary damages.

What Is the Discovery Phase of MDL?

The discovery phase of multidistrict litigation unfolds in the same way the discovery phase unfolds during an individual civil lawsuit. Both parties meet to share physical evidence, as well as the statements made by witnesses. For a case that involves healthcare issues, discovery allows both sides to hear the testimony of medical experts. After sharing information, both parties decide whether to continue with a civil trial or attempt to negotiate a settlement that is favorable to the plaintiffs and the defendant. Discovery is monitored by a multidistrict litigation judge to encourage both parties to negotiate a settlement that prevents a case from going through the costly and time-consuming trial phase of the litigation process.

What is multidistrict litigation (MDL)? Learn more about multidistrict litigation and its impact on a class action lawsuit by scheduling a free case evaluation with one of the experienced attorneys at Morgan and Morgan.