Since the beginning of 2013, two major defective products lawsuits have been reviewed by the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML).  As a result of that review, the panel has transferred all federal level suits for the Mirena IUD and for the contraceptive NuvaRing to their own respective Multi-District Litigation (MDL) cases.  Federal Mirena cases will be transferred to MDL No. 2434, and Federal NuvaRing cases are transferred to MDL No. 1964.

Potential clients often ask, “Is this a Class Action Lawsuit?”  The answer is no.  MDL’s are reserved for cases where the potential exists for a large number of cases with major settlements and is only used for non-criminal issues.   An MDL is used when “civil actions involving one or more common questions of fact are pending in different districts.” (28 USC § 1407)

What is the difference between an MDL and a Class Action suit?

In a class action suit, all lawsuits are consolidated into a single case, which is then litigated and settled.  Plaintiffs become class members, and the settlement is split between all class members, after attorney’s fee and expenses have been paid.

In a Multi-District Litigation, plaintiffs maintain their own case, and settlements are based on the merits of the individual cases.  Settlements are usually not just a share of the total settlement, but a settlement based on the court’s finding of merit in the plaintiff’s particular case.

In an MDL, cases that share a common issue are transferred to an assigned district court, where pretrial discovery and motions are done.  Rather than hold pre-trial motions and discovery in each trial, this discovery is shared among district courts throughout the United States.  A single assigned judge becomes the authority in the matter at hand, and hears and rules on all pre-trial motions.  If the case does not settle in the MDL setting, the case is remanded back to its original jurisdiction for trial.

The practice of Multi-District Litigation arises from a 1968 federal law passed by the U.S. Congress, which designated a 7 judge panel of sitting federal judges from across the country known as the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML).  28 USC § 1407 specifies that no 2 judges on the JPML can be from the same district.