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.
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
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
Mark Lanier, the plaintiffs' lawyer leading the talcum powder litigation against Johnson & Johnson, admitted to CNBC that driving the company's stock price down helps him win settlements. ... Read More
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
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
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The 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States was conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform by The Harris Poll to explore how fair and reasonable state liability systems are perceived to be by U.S. businesses.