It is common whenever large pharmaceutical companies are sued by a large number of plaintiffs for the cases to go through what is called Multidistrict Litigation, or an MDL. This process is meant to help with the efficient resolution of such a large number of lawsuits by establishing what evidence and facts can be considered universally relevant. Understanding how this process works will help you determine how your own case may be impacted by the results of the proceedings. There are many misconceptions on how an MDL works and the following will set things straight.
Multidistrict Litigation Does Not Offer Resolution
It is common for many people to mistake MDLs with bellwether trials, which can set precedent for future cases. An MDL is merely meant to determine which pieces of evidence and testimony can be admitted as fact before the cases are al sent back to the courts from where they originated. By having a single judge preside over an MDL, a lot of time is saved in the subsequent trials because testimonies and evidence will not need to be presented to the jury. MDLs also save the courts, plaintiffs and defendants a lot of money in legal fees and court costs.
Instead of employing hundreds or thousands of judges, a single judge can review statements and evidence to determine what is admissible. The final benefit of an MDL is uniformity, as it ensures that two similar cases do not result in greatly varied verdicts.
How the Process Works and the Benefits and Cons
When there are a large number of similar cases filed against a single defendant or a group of defendants, a judicial panel will decide whether to proceed with an MDL. The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court is responsible for appointing the seven members of the panel. If the panel believes that the cases should be centralized, a single judge will be sent to a federal district court. From there, the appointed judge will rule concerning discovery, depositions, settlement negotiations and other important processes that can be handled under the care of a single judge.
Some of the evidence or cases may be dismissed outright and if cases are allowed to go forward after the MDL, they will return to their courts of origin.
The obvious benefit of an MDL for plaintiffs is that attorneys can work together while having access to a greater amount of resources and expertise. For defendants, an MDL greatly reduces legal costs because all of the matters of fact are resolved, allowing for the reduced need of legal counsel. The disadvantage for defendants is the publicity that these proceedings receive. Many victims who may not have come forward can become more emboldened and seek the compensation that they believe they deserve for their injuries.
What Types of Cases May Go to MDL?
Drug lawsuits that are sent to Multidistrict Litigation revolve around medications and devices that have harmed a large number of people. Such cases tend to involve the failure of the defendant to properly warn patients of risks of the defective design or premature rush to market without enough research to support the efficacy or safety of the medication or device. Some examples include the DePuy and Stryker hip replacement lawsuits, the Johnson & Johnson talcum powder lawsuits and lawsuits alleging the link between power morcellation and the spread of cancer throughout the uterus.
While an MDL may impact the chances of a settlement offer, it is the right of every person filing a claim to determine whether to accept the offer or proceed to trial. It is also important to consider that since an MDL is formed solely for the purpose of establishing which facts and evidence are admissible, these proceedings will not yield a judgment in favor of either the plaintiffs or defendant.