How Is Multidistrict Litigation Different from Class Action?

Defective products injure tens of thousands of Americans every year. As a result, thousands of injury cases are filed against manufacturers in courts across the country. In order to handle the sizeable caseload, courts have a couple of ways of consolidating similar cases: multidistrict litigation and class actions. While both of these concepts promote judicial efficiency and consistency, they differ in many ways. Below, you’ll find information about the key differences between multidistrict litigation and class actions.

How Multidistrict Litigation Works

Complex product liability cases frequently involve one or more common issues of fact. For example, while hundreds of plaintiffs may file injury suits against the maker of a dangerous pharmaceutical, all of these suits will likely hinge on whether the drug is defective. When lawsuits are filed in different courts, inconsistent rulings may result. The court’s limited resources are also burdened. Multidistrict litigation remedies these issues by transferring federal lawsuits that share one or more common issues of fact into one centralized federal court.

The assigned judge then oversees the matter during pretrial. If a lawsuit is still pending after completion of pretrial, it will be transferred back to the original court where it was filed for trial. Multidistrict litigation isn’t a type of class action. Instead, each transferred lawsuit remains a separate case. As a result, one lawsuit’s settlement won’t bind the parties in another lawsuit.

Currently, there are thousands of product liability lawsuits involving the popular oral contraceptives Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella. Numerous women have claimed that the birth control pills caused them to experience serious health conditions, including blood clots, heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, gallbladder disease and injury, and even death in some cases. So far, more than 11,000 federal lawsuits involving these birth control pills have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation matter in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. Some of these lawsuits have settled, while thousands are still pending.

How Class Actions Work

A class action lawsuit is when several individuals who have suffered a similar injury come together to sue a common defendant. A class action levels the playing field because the plaintiffs’ resources are pooled together, creating a united front and lowering the high cost of litigation.

If monetary damages are the primary relief sought in the class action, class members are generally bound by the trial verdict or settlement unless they’ve opted out – declined to join the class action. In some matters, including those involving potential claims against a major corporation, the damages may be very small for each injured individual. That’s because the class typically splits the award or settlement among all of the class members. In some instances, the share a class member receives may not be enough to compensate the member for his or her injury.

A past attempt in federal court to certify a class of Yaz and Yasmin victims failed. There are currently no pending product liability class actions involving either Yaz or Yasmin in the federal courts. However, this could change in the future, as the number of birth control complaints rises.