Multidistrict Litigation Versus Class Action Litigation

Posted on Friday, May 31st, 2024 at 8:19 pm    

Understanding Mass Tort Litigation vs. Class Action Lawsuits

You might be familiar with class action lawsuits, but less so with their counterpart, mass tort litigation. Many people believe an MDL (Multidistrict Litigation) lawsuit is essentially the same as a class action lawsuit, where a group of injured individuals come together to sue a company or manufacturer responsible for their injuries. While there are similarities, key differences distinguish these two types of legal actions.

Key Differences Between MDL and Class Action Lawsuits

The primary difference between an MDL lawsuit and a class action lawsuit is the structure and outcome. A class action lawsuit is essentially one single lawsuit with a collective outcome. If successful, the settlement amount is divided among the plaintiffs after attorney fees and other costs are deducted. Typically, plaintiffs in a class action do not receive large settlements, and there is no distinction between plaintiffs with severe injuries and those with minor injuries.

Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

MDL is a federal court procedure that consolidates civil cases involving similar issues. By grouping similar cases in one court, pre-trial proceedings like discovery become faster and more efficient, as information is shared between attorneys for both plaintiffs and defendants. This promotes consistency, with a single court ruling on all pre-trial matters.

For example, if hundreds of plaintiffs want to question a manufacturer’s quality manager about defective hip implants, MDL allows the manager to be questioned once rather than hundreds of times in different courts nationwide.

Advantages of MDL

Unlike class actions, MDLs allow for leveraged settlements without individual litigation. Patients severely harmed by a product, medical device, or dangerous drug may receive larger settlements than those with less severe injuries. Each MDL case is tried separately, and settlements are based on the specific merits of each case.

In an MDL, cases with common factual or legal issues are grouped for discovery, pre-trial hearings, trial scheduling, and settlement conferences. However, for verdicts and settlements, each lawsuit remains separate. The individual facts of each case are considered, and settlements are based on the level of harm suffered.

Combining resources in an MDL, as in class actions, reduces litigation costs, leaving more money for plaintiffs. MDLs are suitable for cases where plaintiffs have been uniquely damaged, making a class action impractical, but individual claims inefficient.

Bellwether Trials

MDLs also use bellwether trials, where representative cases are tried to gauge the strength of the overall case. If a large corporation loses several bellwether trials, they may opt to settle all cases in the MDL to avoid further losses. Although MDLs are federal proceedings, some states have similar structures for consolidating cases.

Class Action Lawsuits

In a class action lawsuit, plaintiffs can expect a settlement if the defendant wishes to avoid substantial losses. However, the settlement is typically divided equally among plaintiffs, meaning individual settlements may be small. Plaintiffs with minor damages who would not file individual lawsuits may benefit from a class action, receiving a small settlement with minimal effort.

Once a class action is filed, all potential members can join. However, once a settlement is reached, members cannot file individual lawsuits for the same issue. For a class action to proceed, it must be certified by federal courts, requiring:

  • A large number of plaintiffs making individual cases impractical.
  • Shared legal claims and injuries among potential members.
  • A representative to protect the interests of the entire class.

While class actions involve voluntary groups, MDLs are court-initiated actions consolidating numerous individual lawsuits. Victims of defective products, medical devices, or dangerous drugs may choose class actions to avoid individual litigation. Successful class action members are bound by the settlement and cannot pursue further legal action, while those opting out can pursue individual lawsuits or join an MDL.

Getting Help with Your Product Liability Lawsuit

Discussing the merits of class action lawsuits vs. MDLs or individual lawsuits with a knowledgeable attorney is crucial. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best course of action. Filing a lawsuit can be daunting, but it may be necessary to hold a negligent manufacturer accountable for marketing unsafe products. A compassionate Mississippi product liability attorney with strong negotiation and litigation skills can guide you through the process.

For assistance with your product liability case, contact Bullock Legal Group at (833)853-4258 or fill out our free and confidential questionnaire to evaluate your case