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What is an MDL?

A Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) is a legal procedure used in the United States federal court system to manage and consolidate multiple civil cases that share common factual issues and legal questions. MDLs are typically established when a large number of similar lawsuits are filed in various federal courts across the country, often involving product liability, mass torts, or other complex litigation matters.

Here are some key points about MDLs:

  1. Centralization: The primary purpose of an MDL is to centralize pretrial proceedings for cases with common issues. Instead of each case proceeding separately in different federal courts, they are transferred to a single federal district court for coordinated and consolidated pretrial proceedings.

  2. Efficiency: MDLs aim to promote efficiency by avoiding duplication of effort and resources. Consolidating cases can lead to faster and more consistent pretrial decisions, including discovery, motion practice, and settlement negotiations.

  3. Preservation of Resources: For both plaintiffs and defendants, MDLs can help save time and money by reducing the need to litigate the same issues repeatedly in multiple jurisdictions.

  4. Individual Trials: While MDLs consolidate pretrial proceedings, individual cases are generally remanded to their original federal courts for trial once pretrial matters are resolved. Each case retains its individual identity and is tried separately.

  5. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML): The JPML is responsible for deciding whether to create an MDL and selecting the federal district court where it will be centralized. The panel is composed of federal judges and considers various factors when making these decisions.

  6. Common Cases: MDLs are often established for cases involving mass torts, defective products, environmental contamination, pharmaceuticals, and other complex litigation where numerous plaintiffs make similar claims against one or more defendants.

It's important to note that MDLs are a procedural mechanism for managing pretrial proceedings and do not determine the ultimate outcome of individual cases. After the pretrial phase is completed, cases may be returned to their original courts for trial, or some may be resolved through settlement.

MDLs provide a way to handle the complexities of large-scale litigation efficiently and ensure that common issues are addressed consistently.

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