Mass Tort Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

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Congress created Multidistrict Litigation proceedings (MDLs) in 1968 so that overlapping cases are centralized before a single judge for coordinated pre-trial proceedings, resulting in much more efficiency. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are also now using MDLs to bring meritless claims in the hopes that the sheer number of cases will pressure defendants into settlements. In 2018, 52 percent of all federal civil cases wound up in MDLs, of which about 90 percent were mass tort cases. Furthermore, the plaintiffs’ bar also groups together unrelated personal injury claims in multiple-plaintiff lawsuits as a trick to avoid federal jurisdiction, so the cases can be handled by a few “magnet” state courts. Read More...

A single judge can oversee tens of thousands of consolidated cases in a single MDL. This results in a very small amount of judges wielding an enormous amount of power over a majority of civil cases in federal courts. This creates a problem as MDL’s have different appeal rights for plaintiffs and defendants, where a plaintiff can immediately appeal a judge’s decision, and the defendant alternately has no timely or effective way to appeal. This ultimately leads to defendants being forced to settle. The current unequal treatment of defendants and plaintiffs is a clear imbalance that needs correction. In addition, the federal judiciary is looking at potentially changing the rules regarding MDL proceedings to help address this situation.

The Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) believes the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act (FICALA) will make a number of significant changes to the class action litigation system that turn MDLs into a mechanism of extracting strong-armed settlements from defendants. FICALA would ensure federal court jurisdiction to limit state court magnet MDL proceedings, and mandate evidentiary support for plaintiffs’ claims to avoid baseless proceedings.

01/01/2019

Suggested Resources

Research
  • Trials and Tribulations: Contending with Bellwether and Multi-Plaintiff Trials in MDL Proceedings

    Trials and Tribulations: Contending with Bellwether and Multi-Plaintiff Trials in MDL Proceedings

    October 21, 2019

    Multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceedings are a key feature of our civil justice system, designed to offer an efficient path through pretrial proceedings in large groups of cases against the same defendant(s). Unfortunately, some judges are undermining the integrity of this mechanism by conducting MDL "bellwether trials" with the express intent of incentivizing parties to settle. Some MDL judges even force defendants to accept multi-plaintiff bellwether trials, which effectively stack the deck against them. ILR's research examines the impact of this problem, and proposes straightforward legislative fixes to address it. Read More

  • MDL Imbalance: Why Defendants Need Timely Access To Interlocutory Review

    MDL Imbalance: Why Defendants Need Timely Access To Interlocutory Review

    April 24, 2019

    Multidistrict litigation proceedings (MDLs) were created as an efficient way to handle pretrial proceedings in hundreds or thousands of similar cases against the same defendant. Unfortunately, MDLs also give plaintiffs an unfair advantage when it comes to appeals. If a defendant makes a dispositive motion-on preemption or expert evidence, for example-and is denied, it won't normally have access to immediate appeal. But if the defendant wins the motion, plaintiffs can appeal right away. This paper argues for courts to give MDL plaintiffs and defendants equal access to appellate review. Read More

All Results for Mass Tort Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

  1. Sixth Circuit To Review "Negotiation Class" Approval

    November 12, 2019 | News

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted appeal last Friday of the decision to certify the novel "negotiation class" in the massive opioid-related multidistrict litigation proceedings in Ohio, Law.com reports.... Read More

  2. Trials and Tribulations: Contending with Bellwether and Multi-Plaintiff Trials in MDL Proceedings

    October 21, 2019 | Research

    Multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceedings are a key feature of our civil justice system, designed to offer an efficient path through pretrial proceedings in large groups of cases against the same defendant(s). Unfortunately, some judges are undermining the integrity of this mechanism by conducting MDL "bellwether trials" with the express intent of incentivizing parties to settle. Some MDL judges even force defendants to accept multi-plaintiff bellwether trials, which effectively stack the deck against them. ILR's research examines the impact of this problem, and proposes straightforward legislative fixes to address it. ... Read More

  3. GCs Call For Rule Changes to MDLs

    October 09, 2019 | News

    A group of 45 general counsel and chief legal officers sent a letter to the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure highlighting concerns with multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceedings, Corporate Counsel reports.... Read More

  4. In the News Today - September 27, 2019

    September 27, 2019 | News

    Group of Cities Say "Negotiation Class" May Be Unlawful; "Absolute Panic" Among Cities Facing Negotiation Class Deadline... Read More

  5. In the News Today - September 26, 2019

    September 26, 2019 | News

    New Study Finds Big Swing in Judicial Decisions After Election; Funders, Advertisers "Pouring Money" Into Medical Device Litigation... Read More

  6. 14 AGs Ask Ohio Judge Not To Move Bellwether Forward

    September 10, 2019 | News

    A group of 14 attorneys general filed an amicus brief to the Sixth Circuit urging the judge overseeing the opioid multidistrict litigation proceedings not to move forward with a bellwether trial with lawsuits from local governments, Law360 reports.... Read More

  7. ILR Research Review, Volume 6, Issue 2

    September 10, 2019 | Research

    This edition of the ILR Research Review covers four developments that represent a cross-section of the litigation challenges facing the American business community today, including: municipality lawsuits against energy producers; the unsuitability of private rights of action for protecting privacy; the enduring value of arbitration; and the urgent need to ensure fairness for defendants in multidistrict litigation proceedings.... Read More

  8. Major Plaintiffs' Firms Would Be Shut Out Of Negotiation Class Idea

    August 21, 2019 | News

    Major plaintiffs' firms representing both states and cities would be shut out of the negotiation class idea proposed in the opioid-related multidistrict litigation in Ohio, the judge announced this week.... Read More

  9. OU Law Professor: If AG's "Improper" Opioid Lawsuit Succeeds, It Could "Create a Monster"

    June 04, 2019 | News

    A University of Oklahoma law professor told Legal Newsline that if the state's opioid lawsuit is successful, it could create a monster that "easily could arise in Oklahoma and extend its tentacles well outside the opioid industry." ... Read More

  10. In the News Today - May 2, 2019

    May 02, 2019 | News

    "If It's Broke, Fix It: Address the MDL Imbalance": ... Read More