11 Mar Multidistrict Litigation: What Is it and Why Does It Matter? (Part 1)
If you have been injured by a medical device or are getting ready to file a product liability lawsuit, you may have heard the term “multidistrict litigation” and be wondering what this is and why it matters to you and your case. Here and in an upcoming second part of this blog, we will take a closer look at why multidistrict litigation (or simply MDL) is initiated, the benefits MDLs offer and what types of prominent cases are currently involved in MDLs.
What is MDL?
Multidistrict litigation is the consolidation of many similar lawsuits into a single court for the purposes of pretrial processes. When an MDL is formed (and this occurs when the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation – JPML – initiates an MDL), most if not all of the cases that have been filed against a particular defendant and that have similar if not the same claims will be directed to a single court and will be handled by one judge for the discovery process.
Benefits of MDLs
The reasons that MDLs are so beneficial, particularly when there are thousands of very similar cases filed against a company, include that multidistrict litigation:
- Ensures that similar issues in various cases will be ruled on the same (in other words, different judges in different courts throughout the U.S. will not make different rulings on the same or similar issues for these cases)
- Allows hundreds or even thousands of plaintiffs to benefit from a single evidence-gathering process (so, for instance, witnesses only have to be deposed once, case documents can be easily shared across many cases, etc.)
- Preserves the resources of the courts, as well as of all litigants in these cases.
MDLs are also important because they are typically the arenas in which bellwether cases are selected. Bellwether cases are test cases that judges pick as the first cases to try; these cases are usually selected because they are representative of most cases in an MDL. Both defendants and plaintiffs, as well as attorneys throughout the U.S., generally follow these cases very closely, as the dispositions in these cases can set the stage for how future similar cases will turn out (in terms of the amounts of settlements awarded, etc.).
Look for the upcoming second part of this blog for an overview of some of the most highly publicized MDLs currently underway in the U.S.
Phoenix Product Liability Lawyers at the Law Office of Richard Langerman
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