One of the growing trends over recent years is that of Multidistrict Litigation (MDL). Essentially, what that means is that when civil cases with common factual issues are filed in different federal district courts, those cases can be consolidated in one district court for the purpose of conducting pretrial proceedings.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) evaluates these cases
and transfers them to one single district court (known as the transferee
court) to promote efficiency and convenience for the parties and witnesses.
Once pretrial proceedings have been completed the JPML, or the transferee
district court, will send the cases back to their originating court for
trial. “Pretrial proceedings” in an MDL can include written
discovery, depositions, and motion practice. In some instances, the MDL
court may even conduct a trial, known as a Bellwether trial. MDL courts
can remain active for years before all of the transferred cases are sent
back to the originating court or resolved.
Generally, MDLs are made up of mass actions involving disasters (such as the BP Oil Spill), products liability cases (such as pharmaceutical cases), or medical device cases (such as Transvaginal Mesh and Metal-on-Metal hip replacements). In some of the larger MDLs, the MDL judge may manage tens of thousands of individual cases. For example, Judge Joseph Goodwin in the Southern District of West Virginia manages seven different MDLs totaling over 72,000 individual cases. As of April 15, 2015, there were a total of 286 active MDL courts over 58 different transferee districts. The number of cases managed by the MDL courts was 133,125.
Fleming, Nolen & Jez, L.L.P. is well versed at navigating the procedural requirements of MDL practice. If you have questions about MDL practice, please don’t hesitate to call FNJ.