multidistrict litigation (MDL)

When product liability actions involving one or more common issues of fact (e.g., an allegedly harmful product or chemical) are filed in multiple jurisdictions, they are typically consolidated for pretrial proceedings in a multidistrict litigation (MDL). 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a). In an MDL, the lawsuits are transferred from their filing courts to a single “transferee” Court (the MDL Court) chosen by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). The purposes of this centralization are to avoid duplication of discovery, to prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and to conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary. For example, overarching issues of law, such as preemption admissibility of common-issue expert opinions, are often resolved by the MDL Court instead of needing to be re-litigated in several different courts. Additionally, MDL Courts can hold bellwether trials to help the parties structure a global settlement process to resolve many or all of the filed cases.