When large groups of individual lawsuits are filed against one entity across many different locations, it is often beneficial for a request to be made to have all cases centralized and heard by one judge. This request is made to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”). The JPML considers whether to centralize the litigation or not, and if they decide to centralize, which judge will be responsible for managing the cases. Ultimately, if the MDL is formed it absorbs all Federal lawsuits under the same umbrella to the same judge.
As medical and pharmaceutical injuries continue to become more common, many attorneys have become increasingly involved in MDL cases. While this process was developed to speed up the time it takes to close a complex case, this type of litigation typically centers around alleged defective drugs and devices. They often require large groups of people to experience the same or similar injuries when using a medical device or pharmaceutical.
Multidistrict Litigation Vs. Class Action Lawsuits
It is not uncommon for individuals seeking representation to ask what differences there are between a MDL and a class action lawsuit. A class action arises when a large group of people are affected by the same defendant company in the same or similar manner. Usually, one lawsuit will be filed and people that are potentially part of the class will either opt in or opt out. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have very strict requirements that must be met for a class to be certified for purposes of litigation.
To be considered a valid class-action lawsuit, affected individuals must share one or more legal claims common to the entire group. In addition to this, the group of affected individuals must also be large enough that individual lawsuits are not practicable.
In contrast to class action lawsuits, MDLs always involve as many as thousands of lawsuits filed by different individuals. MDLs provide for cases to be consolidated for pre-trial proceedings, including an extensive discovery phase but may be sent back to courts where they originated for the actual trial.
One of the most significant benefits of an MDL is that each client’s specific damage claims can be considered. The ability to pool resources often makes it easier for the MDL leadership attorneys to work together to find the best ways to take on colossal pharmaceutical or medical companies with virtually unlimited resources.