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Oftentimes, many people nationwide may suffer similar damages, whether from the same defective product (most notably, pharmaceuticals or medical devices), deceptive sales and marketing practices, or common disasters. In these instances, the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML) in Washington, D.C., which is comprised of seven federal district court judges, decides whether to consolidate certain lawsuits with other similar lawsuits around the country into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) to streamline discovery and pre-trial proceedings, and to conduct bellwether trials.
A bellwether trial is a preliminary, or “test” trial ordered by the federal court overseeing an MDL. These trials test jury reaction to a case or cases selected as representative of the MDL plaintiff pool. The outcome of an MDL’s bellwether trials may encourage an appropriate group settlement of all cases consolidated under that MDL because consolidated plaintiffs have the benefit of group negotiating power. The JPML also decides to which court and judge to transfer the cases. Once the MDL is formed, all federal cases nationwide must be transferred and/or filed directly into the MDL.
MDLs are different from class actions. In an MDL, each plaintiff’s lawsuit remains independent. No plaintiff is required to take a settlement as part of a class. If a plaintiff is unable to settle his or her case through the MDL, they may return to their local federal court for additional proceedings or trial. In a class-action lawsuit, all plaintiffs are part of one single lawsuit and are subject to the group settlement and/or trial strategy of the lawyers representing the entire class.
In 2017, the JPML created 19 new MDL proceedings while denying 21 MDL petitions, a slight increase over 2016 when it created 26 MDLs and denied 29. The new 2017 MDLs were centralized in only 10 states (Maine, New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia, Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio), across 11 judicial districts, with 12 of the 19 new MDL proceedings assigned to judges with prior MDL experience. The JPML also terminated 43 MDL proceedings, leaving 221 pending MDL proceedings, 70 of which are products liability MDLs.
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You and/or your family may be entitled to money damages if you or a family member have suffered injury from:
- an orthopedic medical device such as a hip, knee or shoulder implant, or have had revision surgery to remove and replace a hip, knee or shoulder implant
- use of a prescription or over-the-counter drug or pharmaceutical, including opiates
If you are a municipality or other organization that has incurred costs to battle the nationwide opiate addiction epidemic, you also may be entitled to money damages.