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.


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. In the News Today - April 1, 2019

    April 01, 2019 | News

    Plaintiffs' Firms Spar Over Fees... Read More

  2. ILR Research Review - Spring 2019

    March 21, 2019 | Research

    The rising pace of private securities class actions could present a threat to the health of U.S. capital markets, while the ongoing wave of municipality lawsuits stands in the way of global settlements and undermines the authority of lawmakers and state attorneys general. White papers covered in this edition of the ILR Research Review detail the causes and current state of these litigation trends, along with a full suite of solutions to address them.... Read More

  3. MDLs Surge to Majority of Entire Federal Civil Caseload

    March 15, 2019 | News

    For the first time, multidistrict litigation makes up more than half of the federal civil caseload, according to a new Lawyers for Civil Justice (LCJ) study profiled by Law360.... Read More

  4. In the News Today - March 13, 2019

    March 13, 2019 | News

    Future of Opioid Litigation May Be Bankruptcy... Read More

  5. In the News Today - March 13, 2019

    March 13, 2019 | News

    Future of Opioid Litigation May Be Bankruptcy... Read More

  6. Multidistrict Litigation Needs Intensive Care

    February 22, 2019 | News

    The 50-year-old multidistrict litigation (MDL) process is becoming increasingly unworkable and is in dire need of repair, writes Eli Lilly General Counsel Michael J. Harrington in Corporate Counsel.... Read More

  7. Lanier Says it "Serves My Purposes" to Drive Down Company's Stock

    December 19, 2018 | News

    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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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