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What in the world is an MDL?


What in the world is an MDL?

What in the world is an MDL or multidistrict litigation?

We at Heard Merman Law Firm get asked this question all the time:  “What in the world is an MDL?”  The term “MDL” stands for multidistrict litigation.  When lawyers refer to an MDL, they are often referring to the consolidation of a group of federal cases that have a common theme.  The cases in an MDL are overseen by a single judge in a specific court chosen by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”).  When there are many Plaintiffs – injured parties who file a lawsuit – and cases dotted around the country, the legal process would be highly inefficient if those cases were to move along without any coordination, as many common aspects of the cases would have to be repeated over and over again.  That’s where an MDL comes in.  The judge overseeing an MDL sets forth the procedures for the cases in the MDL to proceed, and the common aspects are then joined so that the general work product is applied to everyone’s case. 

Here’s an example:

A law firm in Texas files a case against BigPharmaCo in the Southern District of Texas for injuries client R. Lou experienced from its defective drug BadPill.  Two days later, a law firm in Florida files another case against BigPharmaCo in Florida regarding similar injuries client J. Lee also experienced from BadPill.  A week later, a law firm in Oregon does the same on behalf of client M. Smith.  This pattern continues, and the next thing you know, there are federal cases dotted all over the country against BigPharmaCo relating to the use of BadPill.  After motions and hearings, the JPML then decides to consolidate all BigPharmaCo cases involving BadPill into a single court in the Eastern District of Louisiana under Judge Fair.  Judge Fair then appoints a committee for both sides to oversee the common aspects of the cases, and Judge Fair also implements various procedures to further streamline the process.  For instance, the deposition of BigPharmaCo executive Jones occurs once and then gets applied to all the cases.  A few initial trials will also be scheduled, pulled from some of the earliest BadPill cases on file.  Those initial trials are called Bellwether trials, and they help the parties see how the judge and jury will view certain common aspects of all the cases.  When it comes time to resolve the cases – if they are resolved – individual settlements are obtained for R. Lou, J. Lee, M. Smith and other Plaintiffs, each for separate amounts dependent upon each person’s case facts.

It’s important to point out that an MDL is very different from a class action.  An MDL essentially takes multiple individual cases and puts them together to streamline certain aspects of the case, but at the end of the day, everyone’s case in an MDL remains his/her own.  To be a part of the MDL, you will have your individual case filed against the defendant.  In contrast, a class action often involves one single plaintiff who represents the interests of all other similarly situated plaintiffs, you don’t necessarily have to file your case to have a claim, and there is often less individuality in a class action. 

So there you have it – a very quick primer on MDLs.  There is a LOT more information available to fully understand what an MDL is and how it works, and it’s important to consult an attorney experienced in MDLs when exploring your potential claim, but we hope this information is helpful to at least demystify the large question mark of what the term “MDL” means.  MDLs have been used to streamline high-profile cases in recent years, and the trial attorneys at Heard Merman Law Firm have worked diligently in MDLs relating to products such as Ortho-Evra, IVC Filters, Hernia Mesh, Transvaginal Mesh, Hip Implants, and many others.  Currently, Heard Merman Law Firm attorneys play pivotal roles in MDLs, including Attorney Kim Truongle’s current role as an appointed member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee of the Paragard contraceptive MDL centralized in Georgia.  If you need assistance with your Paragard claim, or any type of case, do not hesitate to reach out to the accident and injury trial attorneys at Heard Merman Law Firm.

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