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In product liability cases, there are two types of cases that could be filed: a class action suit or a multi-district litigation (MDL).

The first is a class action lawsuit. In a class action suit, a class of plaintiffs is established based on common complaints and damages, and the entire class becomes the plaintiff. Measures of damage to the entire class are argued and any verdict affects all members of the class equally. Any settlements obtained are split between lawyer fees and expenses, with the remainder split equally between all members of the class. In this type of case, the individual merits of a case mean less than the common problems of the entire group. The problem: settlements may be small and may not reflect problems that you have incurred if those problems fall outside of the common issues affecting the class.

Most product liability cases that you would file with the Richard Harris Law Firm will be an individual case with your specific damages as the driving factor in the case.

As the number of cases for a particular product increase, the federal courts have set up a system to manage the early stages of cases of similar products, to handle discovery and pre-trial motions under a single judge who is established as an authority in that product. As the number of cases indicates that a great deal of activity will be required for that product, all such cases can be consolidated for these pre-trial activities, into a legal entity known as a multi-district litigation (MDL). An MDL is used when “…civil actions involving one or more common questions of fact are pending in different districts.” (28 USC §1407)

In an MDL, your case remains your case and will settle on the merits of the particular damages you have incurred. Furthermore, the settlements remain yours, after lawyer fees and expenses. If your case is established as part of an MDL, the early portions of any trial will be handled under the MDL structure.


The MDL system is the outgrowth of a 1968 federal law, which established a seven-judge panel, called the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML). These seven judges hear arguments concerning whether a type of case should be consolidated or not. If the JPML determine to consolidate a case type, a federal judge for a particular district is assigned as the authority, and that that judge will hear product and all pre-trial functions. All pre-trial motions are heard during the pre-trial period, and discovery for that product case is developed and then shared with all district courts, saving time in subsequent trials and working from a common framework.

Once an MDL is established, cases that have progressed to trial may be selected as bellwether cases. These trials use the common discovery and pre-trial motions as a basis, and the results of the trials give some indication of how subsequent cases may conclude.

Your case could close as part of the MDL process. If it does not close, the case is then remanded back to its original jurisdiction, and will then be decided on its individual merits. Any settlements won go towards lawyer fees and expenses, and you, the client.

Richard Harris Law Firm is your best choice for Product Liability Cases

Most of our product liability blog posts indicate whether that particular product has been consolidated into an MDL. As an example, since our latest blog on defective hernia mesh, the JPML has decided to consolidate all Ethicon Physiomesh cases into an MDL. It is expected that hundreds of cases in the federal court system will be consolidated for pre-trial procedures under this new MDL.

In any case, the court system is complex and requires the skills of a well-trained and talented attorney to navigate and bring a case to a successful conclusion. These are the kinds of attorneys that make up the Richard Harris Law Firm. If you have had a significant complication due to the use of a medicine or medical device, we may be able to help you. Call us today to discuss your potential case at (702) 444-4444.


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