What's the difference between class action and multi district (MDL) Lawsuits?
The attorneys at TheLawFirm.com are frequently asked about the difference between “class-action lawsuits” and cases in “multi district litigation”. For those who have been injured by a defective medical product or a bad drug, it is important to understand the difference between a “class action” and “multidistrict litigation cases” (also known as a MDL).
A class-action lawsuit involves similar claims by a group of people injured by one or more common defendants. In this type of suit, the plaintiffs join others in a class action rather than go it alone. As an example, imagine that thousands of people have all been overcharged $10 a month by their cable company. Each person has identical losses.
An individual or small group of plaintiffs acts as the class representative for the larger group. After filing a complaint in state or federal court, this class representative asks the court to ‘certify’ the lawsuit as a class action. This is often where the biggest battle occurs between the Plaintiffs and the Defense.
In deciding whether to certify a class action, the court considers a number of factors. Looking at the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for example, these factors can include whether:
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
However, most of the cases handled by the LawFirm.com are multi-district litigation cases. Because we focus our practice on defective medical devices and dangerous drugs, our clients suffer individual harm. That is the key difference between class actions and multi district litigation cases: in a class action, everyone harmed has been harmed in a very similar way. However, as you can imagine, a person who has been harmed by a defective medical device or dangerous drug will have individual harm, injury and loss.
Where large numbers of consumers suffer similar (but not identical) injuries or loss from the same defective drug or device we often see hundreds or thousands of civil lawsuits against the manufacturer of the defective product or dangerous drug. Rather than have these cases all over the place, they can be transferred to a single court. However, each individual plaintiff still has his or her case examined individually. This transfer usually happens when there are large numbers of cases against common defendants and the courts expect more plaintiffs to file lawsuits. Therefore, a multi district litigation case is merely a tool used by the Courts to manage large numbers of lawsuits.
Although there are complaints about the MDL process, it is important for plaintiffs to understand the MDL process. One of the biggest complaints from the clients of TheLawFirm.com is the length of time it takes to resolve cases involving dangerous drugs or defective medical devise. We share this frustration. There are many reasons for the length of time these cases take. However, for the purposes of this post, the reader needs to understand that cases in the MDL, while grouped together, are still considered individually. If there are thousands of cases, this process can take years.
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