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Multidistrict Litigation Versus Class Action Litigation

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2020 | Class Actions

MDL and Class Action Litigation both provide a legal mechanism for the progression and often resolution of legal issues that affect numerous individuals at the same time.

How do MDLs Differ from Class Actions?

Most lawsuits involve an injured person seeking compensation for their damages. MDLs and class action litigation include many plaintiffs/class members who share the same or similar set of facts giving rise to the case. In both MDLs and class actions, a group of plaintiffs/class representatives allege harm caused by the same defendant or defendants.

Class actions and MDLs are both lawsuits that combine the interests of many individuals in one action rather than separate lawsuits, at least for a period of time. These MDLs and class actions are designed to reduce the number of court cases that arise when many are harmed by the same set of circumstances and defendants. This has the effect of saving the court system, attorneys and litigants time and money, as well as protecting against inconsistent rulings that may occur otherwise.

What are the Differences?

The main difference between MDLs and class actions is the status of the plaintiffs within the litigation.

MDLs often involve a group of distinct individuals or groups of individuals. Because of this, MDL cases typically consist of many individual cases as opposed to a class action suit where one or more plaintiffs represent a larger group of individuals.

Although plaintiffs in an MDL are part of a large group, each plaintiff maintains their own individual case. As a result, each plaintiff must prove the facts, including how they were injured by the defendant. That is not the case for a class action.

Class action suits typically have a few plaintiffs that represent the interests of a large group of affected individuals. The larger group of individuals is called the class and is represented by an individual(s) called a class representative(s) or lead plaintiff(s). The class representative(s) protect the interests of the class.

When is a Class Action Utilized and When is a Multidistrict Litigation Utilized?

Class Action Lawsuits

Class action lawsuits must satisfy a set of criteria established by state or federal court rules.

For instance, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have established the following criteria for class action lawsuits:

  • The class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
  • There are questions of law or fact common to the class;
  • The claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
  • The representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

All individuals in the class must be notified of the case and given the choice to either participate as part of the class or “opt out” and proceed with their own counsel. Before a class action lawsuit is established or certified, a motion must be filed in court for a representative to act as a plaintiff on behalf of the entire class.

Multidistrict Litigation

MDLs are often used when individuals’ circumstances are too different from one another for the case to proceed as a class action. This often arises in the context of physical injuries.

Most often, for the last twenty years or so, MDLs have been created when individuals have been injured as a result of using defective drugs or consumer products. MDLs can be created when cases have been filed regarding the same defective product against the same or similar defendants in different federal jurisdictions. There can exist many differences in the way that people purchase, use and react to a defective product. These differences are often what causes a case to become an MDL as opposed to a class action.

A group of judges called the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation decide whether cases are going to be consolidated into an MDL and what jurisdiction and judge will preside over the litigation. Cases consolidated into an MDL are done so for all pre-trial practice. At the conclusion of the pre-trial work the cases, according to the MDL rules, are supposed to be sent back to the federal jurisdiction where they were or would have been originally filed for a trial. What happens most often is the judge presiding over the MDL will conduct one or more Bellwether trials or exemplar trials. The trials are real and have a binding effect as to plaintiff(s) that are in them and the decision or verdict of the jury is final in their case. As to all other cases consolidated in the MDL, the Bellwether cases serve as exemplars for what their cases could look like when they go to trial, including evidentiary rulings.

Consult the Team of Baltimore Class Action and Multi District Litigation Attorneys at Peter Angelos Law

Class action lawsuits are often complicated and require strategic legal planning with the help of an experienced litigator. If you were harmed by a defective product, you may be able to file a complaint as part of a class action or MDL. Our attorneys have accrued decades of experience helping victims seek compensation for their pain and suffering. Contact the Baltimore-area attorneys at Peter Angelos Law for a no-charge consultation today.