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Consumer Protection and Product Recalls

What is an “MDL” and what does it have to do with my case?


You’ve probably run across the acronym “MDL” on our website.  This probably struck you with some confusion.  “MDL” stands for multi-district litigation.  In short, they are cases where there are a large number of injured people, who may live all across the country, or the world.  Let’s take a closer look at what these are and why it matters for you.

The Origin of MDLs

Back in the 60s, a complex case convinced the Supreme Court that federal courts needed a procedure for dealing with cases that huge numbers of plaintiffs.

Here’s the story: some manufacturers of electrical equipment had been violating anti-trust laws.  The manufacturers had been conspiring to “fix prices.”  Essentially, they all agreed that they’d charge too much for their products. Some folks at the federal government found out and got pretty miffed. The manufacturers had violated the Sherman Act, an anti-trust law, and were brought up on criminal charges.  Almost everybody plead guilty.

Then, everyone sued the pants off them. Starting with the federal government, 1,912 separate lawsuits were filed against the manufacturers. A total of 25,714 claims were brought. 

Federal courts care a lot about something called “judicial economy.”  Basically, they don’t want a bunch of courts to do the work that one or two courts could. 

Enter Chief Justice Earl Warren.  He appointed a commission that made rules for these sorts of cases.  The rub is that these cases have to be tried in certain places where the defendants conducted bad business. All in all, the cases were filed in 36 different federal judicial districts.  That’s a lot of separate courts doing basically the same thing.

To speed the process up, the committee set up a procedure for transferring the cases to a single court for discovery and pretrial proceedings.  This is where parties request documents from each other and determine all of the issues in a case.  This is also where most cases typically get settled or dismissed. 

In designing the procedures, the committee realized this was a recurring issue.  More and more cases like this one were being filed across the country.  The procedure they designed worked really well for the anti-trust litigation.  So, they recommended that Congress enact a law outlining a procedure for taking care of this.

Modern MDL Litigation

Today, this statute determines how large-scale cases like that get handled.  Most of the pending MDL cases are “products liability” cases.  This is where a product had some awful effect that the manufacturer either should have known about or did know about, but didn’t do enough to protect its customers.  Some examples are:

·         faulty medical devices,

·         airline crashes

·         drugs with horrendous side-effects, and

·         defective motor vehicles.

You can find a complete list of pending MDLs here.

The Difference Between MDLs and Class Action Lawsuits

Some folks would probably say “that sounds a lot like a class action lawsuit.” They’d be right, but there are some features that distinguish MDLs from class actions.

MDLs are all “tort” actions.  That means they’re based on someone’s negligence (AKA you had a duty to do something or not do something, and you failed in that duty).

Class actions all involve consumer fraud.  In a class action, consumers who have been defrauded by a company join together to sue that company for financial losses

The bottom line is that MDLs come from personal injuries while class actions typically involve financial losses.

How We Can Help

At the Law Office of David H. Williams, we’ve helped dozens of plaintiffs recover money from negligent companies. Obviously, the process surrounding these cases is not simple.  It is important to have an attorney with decades of experience with these type of cases.  If you think you have an MDL claim, contact us today so we can make sure you’re covered.  There is never a fee unless we collect for you.

Other interesting blogs/pages on this topic:

Abilify Lawsuits Filed on July 25, 2016

Consumer Alerts – Massive Airbag Recall – Failure Associated with Serious Injury and Death

Medications Taken during Pregnancy May Cause Birth Defects

David Williams