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 there should be federal court jurisdiction to limit state court magnet MDL proceedings, and that evidentiary support for plaintiffs’ claims should be mandated in order to avoid baseless proceedings.


Suggested Resources

  • 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. Appeals Court Reverses 'Negotiation Class' Created for Opioid MDL

    September 25, 2020 | News

    A federal appeals court rejected a novel "negotiation class" comprised of all cities and counties suing them over the nationwide opioid crisis settlement, according to a report in ... Read More

  2. Judge Questions $30M Atty Fee Bid In Yahoo Breach MDL

    June 19, 2020 | News

    California Federal Judge Lucy Koh declined to approve class counsel's $30 million fee bid for securing a $117.5 million deal in the Yahoo data breach multidistrict litigation. ... Read More

  3. In the News Today - June 4, 2020

    June 04, 2020 | News

    Opioid MDL Judge Orders More Briefing On $3B Atty Fees... Read More

  4. From the President's Desk: MDLs Are Not "Judicial Border" Countries

    April 17, 2020 | Blogs

    On Wednesday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a milestone opinion enforcing the rule of law in an area where it's been sorely lacking: multidistrict litigation (MDL). In a sharp rebuke to a federal U.S. district court in Cleveland, which is overseeing the federal opioid MDL, the influential appellate court said the rule of law and the rights of individual defendants can't take a back seat to judicial efficiency.... Read More

  5. Cheese Buyers Ask 7th Circ. To Revive Parmesan Label Suit

    April 17, 2020 | News

    A group of buyers is alleging that food companies and stores deceived them into believing their cheese products were made of 100% pure Parmesan cheese, according to a report in Law 360... Read More

  6. 6th Circuit Panel Says That MDL Judge's Ruling in Opioid Case Was 'Clear Abuse of Discretion'

    April 16, 2020 | News

    Yesterday, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said a pretrial ruling by District Judge Dan Polster was a "clear abuse of discretion," and "was plainly incorrect as a matter of law," according to a report in Legal Newsline.... Read More

  7. In the News Today -March 27, 2020

    March 27, 2020 | News

    Federal Judge Awards Plaintiffs' Lawyers More Than $114M In Legal Fees... Read More

  8. In the News Today - March 5, 2020

    March 05, 2020 | News

    A New York federal judge on Wednesday ordered the initiation of a fourth "wave" of multidistrict litigation over alleged defects in the ignition switches of some General Motors vehicles.... Read More

  9. Law Firms Set to Earn Hundreds of Millions in Fees Related to 15 Opioid Settlements

    March 04, 2020 | News

    About a dozen law firms are already set to earn nearly $160 million in fees related to 15 opioid settlements in Ohio and Oklahoma, and according to's review of the contracts associated with those settlements, that amount is likely to increase. ... Read More

  10. AGs Balk at Attorneys' Fee Bid in Opioid MDL

    February 25, 2020 | News

    A bipartisan group of 37 attorneys general say the fee model asked for by the plaintiffs' attorneys in the massive opioid multidistrict litigation proceedings are "well beyond what is necessary to ensure fair compensation for private counsel," Law360 reports.... Read More