When a large number of plaintiffs are involved in a case, the legal system has developed a procedure known as multidistrict litigation (MDL) to help federal courts efficiently manage many related cases filed in different jurisdictions. To be eligible for an MDL, a group of claims must include one or more common issues of fact. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, composed of seven appellate judges and district courts from different circuits, decides by majority vote whether to create an MDL and where to send it. The district court that presides over an MDL is called a “transferred court” and has jurisdiction over all pre-trial issues in all transferred cases. The transferred court can resolve claims in full by dismissal or summary judgment, control the pace and scope of discovery and the limits of expert testimony.
Most class tort lawsuits are resolved before they reach the referring court for trial. An MDL offers many advantages, both economic and strategic. It helps to save the parties attorneys' fees and costs, as well as proceed in an orderly manner. Moreover, it provides consistency, as most important decisions are made by a single judge who is an expert in both the facts and relevant law. An MDL also provides the defendant with a more complete understanding of the nature and scope of the claims, which can place them in a better position to consider reaching an agreement. Furthermore, the publicity of an MDL may attract other demands from potential plaintiffs.
On the other hand, mass tort cases are typically too case-specific to be “classifiable” and require individual lawsuits. These testimonies can help strengthen a mass tort case and increase the chances of recovering compensation. When dozens or even hundreds of people want to sue a common defendant in a single lawsuit, lawyers for the victims must seek permission from the civil court to initiate a class action for tort. Mass tort cases typically arise through negligence and involve a large group of people who suffer injuries or harm from similar civil torts. Since there is no specific statute of limitations for a mass tort lawsuit in every state, victims must meet the statute of limitations applicable to the type of case they want to file. The attorneys at Harris Beach Mass Torts and Industry-Wide Litigation Practice Group are renowned for their ability to handle cases where complex scientific and legal issues overlap.
However, many mass tort cases are combined in every state in multi-district litigation (MDL) to speed up proceedings. Since there is only one trial in a class action lawsuit rather than individual lawsuits, recoveries are much lower than in mass tort actions.