What is “Multi-District Litigation”?

| Apr 19, 2018 | Medical Product Liability

A previous post on this blog referred to a series of trials that will soon take place regarding a “physiomesh” surgical mesh product that unfortunately wound up injuring several patients. These legal cases are subject to what is called “multi-district litigation” and, although filed by various victims around the country, are being managed by a federal court which happens to serve Rome, Georgia.

As other medical product liability cases can easily wind up in “multi-district litigation” within the federal court system, it is important for Georgia residents who think they are the victim of a defective drug or medical device to know the basics of what this sort of litigation, referred to as “MDL” for short, entails.

The details of MDL can be quite complicated, so specific questions should be referred to an attorney who has experience handling complex medical liability cases. However, the basic idea of MDL is to prevent the federal courts from getting overwhelmed by a flood of cases that involve basically the same circumstances and the same product. After all, when a medical product is defective, one can assume that there will be victims facing the same or similar injuries from around the country, and it makes sense to address these cases together as much as possible.

What happens is that a group of seven district judges in federal court, all of whom are appointed, have the authority to oversee the dockets of the courts around the country and identify cases that can be consolidated. One of the panel’s favorite types of cases to consolidate is complicated medical device or drug litigation. This panel may consolidate cases either by request or on their own initiative.

While, in theory, each individual case will be tried separately and in the appropriate local court, MDL allows the federal court to manage all pre-trial matters, such as discovery, important strategic motions and other matters efficiently by treating all similar cases the same, as much as possible. This can have a profound impact on the outcome of a victim’s lawsuit, for better or for worse.