Mass Tort Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Proceedings

  • Home >
  • Issues >
  • Mass Tort Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Proceedings

When multiple civil actions involving one or more common questions of fact are pending in several different federal district courts, those actions can sometimes be transferred to one district court for coordinated and consolidated management and pretrial proceedings under a single judge. Congress created the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Panel in 1968 to handle these types of cases. The purpose behind implementing MDLs was to streamline and manage large numbers of relatively complex, but factually similar, claims in a consistent manner. This would ideally reduce backlog in federal courts and reduce duplicative discovery, allowing the courts to administer mass claims in a more coherent fashion. Read More...

Unfortunately, the plaintiffs’ trial bar has found ways to game the mass tort litigation system and have devised ways to lump claims together so as to avoid federal jurisdiction. As a result, thousands of cases involving national controversies that should belong in federal court are being handled by a few “magnet” state courts—even though those courts have no relationship to the parties and have no business being involved. This often has the unfortunate effect of dragging innocent small businesses, unlucky enough to be located in a trial lawyer-friendly jurisdiction, into burdensome and expensive litigation.

Furthermore, even if a case is able to be heard in a federal mass tort MDL proceeding, some plaintiffs’ counsel file thousands of advertising-generated claims without properly investigating those claims’ legitimacy. This goes on unimpeded because MDL courts often limit the ability of defendants to scrutinize individual claims within an MDL. As a result, MDL proceedings are often clogged with bogus claims, prejudicing both plaintiffs with legitimate claims and defendants. Additionally, MDL courts sometimes force “bellwether” trials, despite their mandate to only conduct pre-trial proceedings, and use the results of those trials to pressure settlements.

Even though the cases in mass tort MDL proceedings account for roughly 35% of all civil lawsuits pending in the federal court system nationwide, appeals from key rulings in those proceedings are rarely allowed.

The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017 (FICALA) will make a number of significant changes to the class action litigation system and also help address many of the significant abuses that turn MDLs into a mechanism of extracting strong-armed settlements from defendants, who are many times effectively deprived of their day in court.

The significant changes to the current state of the mass tort MDL system that FICALA makes include:

  • Help fix the magnet state court problem by requiring courts to determine jurisdiction on an individual case basis in a MDL. This will help prevent lawyers from lumping together unrelated personal injury claims in multiple-plaintiff lawsuits solely to avoid federal jurisdiction.
  • Ensuring that MDL courts only conduct trials when all parties agree to such, putting an end to the use of “bellwether” trials, which are often forced upon plaintiffs and defendants to pressure them to settle.
  • Requiring that claimants (the allegedly injured parties) get 80% of any settlement payments, notwithstanding any fee demands by their lawyers. All too often under the current system, trial lawyers walk away with more than their clients.
  • Requiring federal appellate courts to hear appeals from orders issued in MDL proceedings where immediate review may materially advance the ultimate termination of the case.

FICALA would put MDLs back on the right track towards being a means of making the management of federal civil cases more efficient, rather than a tool used by trial attorneys to extract massive, pressured settlements from defendants.

Suggested Resources

Research
  • MDL Proceedings: Eliminating the Chaff

    MDL Proceedings: Eliminating the Chaff

    October 27, 2015

    This paper suggests procedural improvements to weed out dubious and fraudulent claims in the early stages of multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceedings to prevent them from becoming "lawsuit magnets." Read More

  • ILR Research Review - Fall 2017

    ILR Research Review - Fall 2017

    November 30, 2017

    This special double-issue of the ILR Research Review features a wealth of insight and analysis on the world's rapidly changing litigation environment. The research contained in this issue targets exploitative litigation at home and abroad, examining numerous developments ranging from hyper-aggressive trial lawyer advertising in the U.S. to the imminent expansion of class actions in Europe. Read More

All Results for Mass Tort Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Proceedings

  1. In the News Today - October 4, 2018

    October 04, 2018 | News

    Report: MDL Cases Have Tripled In Last 25 Years; SEC Enforcement Co-Director Says Year-End Stats Are "Counter-Productive"... Read More

  2. In the News Today - August 31, 2018

    August 31, 2018 | News

    FDA: Coffee Does Not Need California Warning Label; Bayer, Janssen Get Third Win in Xarelto-related Litigation... Read More

  3. In the News Today - July 27, 2018

    July 27, 2018 | News

    "Justice for Opioid Communities Means Massive Payday for Their Lawyers;" Only 16% of Plaintiffs In Philadelphia Pharma Lawsuits are From Pennsylvania... Read More

  4. Oklahoma Attorney General Warns Oklahoma City Council Against Filing Its Own Opioid Lawsuit

    July 17, 2018 | News

    Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said the Oklahoma City Council "should consider calling a timeout" on its negotiations to opt out of the state's lawsuit against opioid manufacturers to file one of its own, The Oklahoman reports.... Read More

  5. In the News Today - July 16, 2018

    July 16, 2018 | News

    J&J Hit With $4.7 Billion Jury Verdict in Baby Powder Suit; "From Policy to Payday"... Read More

  6. In the News Today - June 13, 2018

    June 13, 2018 | News

    Unbeaten At Trial, Bayer and Janssen Say Cycle Of Xarelto Lawsuits 'Needs To Be Stopped'; Florida Contractor Arrested for Involvement in $140K Assignment of Benefits Scheme... Read More

  7. Bristol-Myers Squibb Battlegrounds: Personal Jurisdiction, A Year Later

    June 12, 2018 | Video | Watch

  8. In the News Today - June 12, 2018

    June 12, 2018 | News

    Drug Companies Challenge Locality Legal Theories in Opioid MDL... Read More

  9. BMS Battlegrounds: Practical Advice for Litigating Personal Jurisdiction After Bristol-Myers

    June 04, 2018 | Research

    The U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court was a clear statement that the days of blatant, unchecked plaintiff forum shopping in search of outsized verdicts are at an end. ILR's research explores this paradigm shift and provides practical advice for defendants litigating BMS in the trenches.... Read More

  10. In the News Today - May 31, 2018

    May 31, 2018 | News

    NFL Attorneys Ask Judge to Investigate Fraud; California Court to Review Class Certification in Illinois Biometric Data Lawsuit... Read More