Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is a federal judicial process invoked in complex cases in which several civil actions with one or more questions of fact in common are filed by different plaintiffs, often in diverse jurisdictions, against the same defendant or group of defendants. In those instances, the related cases are transferred to one federal district court so that all pre-trial proceedings can be heard by a single judge.
Decisions on whether a group of cases should be consolidated are made by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. This panel was created in 1961 and codified into law by Congress seven years later. It is made up of seven judges who are appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Once the panel decides that a group of cases meets the criteria for multidistrict litigation, it is then responsible for choosing the judge who will preside over the hearings so they will progress in a fair and economic manner and in a venue that is most efficient for all parties.
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.
There are several reasons for consolidating cases into a single forum. Having multiple-related cases heard in several different jurisdictions can put a strain on the resources of the courts and the other parties involved. It can also lead to inefficiencies — for example, if the same witness is called simultaneously to multiple courts. There is even the potential for inconsistencies as judges may rule differently on similar pretrial motions. Multidistrict litigation centralizes the entire process so one court handles all discovery, pretrial proceedings, and settlement conferences. Learn more about our Mass Torts practice.
An MDL case should not be confused with a class action. A class-action case is a single suit filed by a large group of plaintiffs who were harmed by the same defendant, and it is the plaintiffs who choose to consolidate their claims. Multidistrict litigation involves several lawsuits filed by separate individuals and combined together after their suits are filed. When multidistrict litigation occurs, any cases in which discovery would have taken place in state court on their own are remanded to federal court. Following all pretrial proceedings, and barring a settlement, the case may then return to its original forum.
Many aviation accident cases and products liability suits stemming from airline disasters are candidates for multidistrict litigation since commercial flights often carry passengers from several different states and countries, meaning suits can be filed in all their respective jurisdictions. Defendants, including air carriers and aircraft manufacturers, can also be headquartered in various cities around the world. Learn more about our Aviation Accident practice.
Multidistrict litigation involves several lawsuits filed by separate individuals and combined together after their suits are filed.
Because of their experience with cases involving large numbers of victims, Kreindler attorneys are often selected by the MDL judge to be the lead counsel for the plaintiffs during the proceedings.
Litigation against pharmaceutical companies in which thousands of individuals have been harmed by the same drug or medical device may be consolidated by the MDL panel. For example, the case against Avandia producers, GlaxoSmithKline, for withholding information regarding the increased risk of heart problems associated with the drug.
Kreindler & Kreindler was also part of a historic MDL case against the NFL for failing to inform and protect their players from the dangers of the concussive injuries and brain trauma many had received during the course of their careers. Kreindler attorneys represented nearly 200 retired professional football players whose cases were consolidated with thousands of others. The settlement included a monetary award fund totaling $765 million.