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Multidistrict Litigation

Ever wonder what Multidistrict Litigation was? This post will take you through the basics of what an MDL is, who rules on them and their advantages and disadvantages.

What is it?

In 1968, Congress created the Multidistrict Litigation system to coordinate complex litigation in multiple districts. According to 28 USC 1407, the code that enables Multidistrict litigation, “(a) When civil actions involving one or more common questions of fact are pending in different districts, such actions may be transferred to any district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings”. MDL’s generally consolidate a few dozen to a hundred cases.

What are some Examples?

These common questions of fact can include: drug, injury, intellectual property, employment practice litigation and more. These cases focus on federal civil (noncriminal) cases from around the country.

Who rules on these cases?

The statute goes on to indicate, “Such coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings shall be conducted by a judge or judges to whom such actions are assigned by the judicial panel on multidistrict litigation.” The panel is made up of seven sitting federal judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States. None of the judges are allowed to be from the same federal circuit.

What are MDL’s Advantages and Disadvantages?

There are several advantages and disadvantages for defendants and plaintiffs in Multidistrict litigation proceedings. For defendants that are large corporations, it is far more efficient to try cases in front of one court, it also allows a higher likelihood that a defendant’s witnesses will give a consistent answer. However, a Multidistrict litigation proceeding can bring greater visibility to the defendant, which can lead to more people filing lawsuits.

For plaintiff’s, having a multidistrict litigation proceeding helps to coordinate efforts and resources available to litigate a case.

You can find more information on Multidistrict litigation here: http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov

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