Firm Logo

Complete Guide to Multi-District Litigation 

By: Anapol Weiss

Multi-district litigation is a special circumstance where many cases are combined during the pretrial process in front of a single Federal District Court. Sometimes referred to by the abbreviation MDL, this is done to reduce the burden on all parties involved, plaintiffs, defendants, and the court system, alike.

What a multi-district litigation is, is a chance for the plaintiff and their personal injury lawyer to move more efficiently through the negotiation, settlement, and, if necessary, court process so they can get the compensation they deserve to pay medical bills, make up for lost wages, and start the process of rebuilding their life after an injury suffered due to the actions or inaction of the defendants.

What is Multi-District Litigation?

Multi-district Litigation is a procedure ordered when multiple non-criminal court cases that each have one or more questions of fact in common are filed in Federal District Courts across the United States. This procedure transfers pre-trial discovery and motions to a single District Court based on a variety of factors for improved efficiency.

When A Case Qualifies For Multi-District Litigation

When a civil case has some questions of fact in common with other cases filed in Federal District Courts outside its jurisdiction, the plaintiffs, defendants, or even the court itself can initiate the process of creating an MDL. The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation is what decides, ultimately, whether or not cases will be combined into a single pre-trial litigation process under the authority of a single District Court. The Panel comprises seven judges from the District and Appellate courts from circuits across the country.

This body considers whether cases fit the criteria for multi-district litigation and which district will manage the pretrial processes and motions.

Factors Considered By The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation

The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation considers these factors:

  • Questions of fact
  • Number of cases
  • Location of Defendants, Plaintiffs, and Witnesses
  • The status of cases and their locations
  • The potential district courts

Questions Of Fact

The most important factor is whether or not multiple cases share one or more questions of fact. The more of these factors they have in common, the more likely it is that the panel will see the cases as a good candidate for the multi-district litigation process.

The Number Of Cases

The panel is more likely to transfer cases into a single District Court for the MDL process when there are a significant number of filings rather than a handful. They may also consider whether or not additional cases are likely to emerge.

The Location Of Defendants, Plaintiffs, and Witnesses

When deciding the location of the transferee district, the Panel will look at the geographic location of witnesses, experts, the defendants, and plaintiffs, with a court which is proximal to the most parties for ease of travel often getting preference over farther-flung districts.

The Status Of Cases And Their Locations

Just as the court will consider the location of the parties involved, they’ll take into account the related matter of where existing cases have been filed and the status of those cases as they work their way through the District Courts.

The Potential District Courts

The specialized knowledge and current dockets of prospective Transferee courts will also be taken into account when assigning a multi-district litigation. Courts that are already under a heavy caseload might be passed over, while a court with a justice already versed in a particular context surrounding a question of fact might make their court more attractive.

The Multi-District Litigation Process

What multi-district litigation is, practically speaking, is a way to avoid forcing the courts, plaintiffs, and defendants in similar cases from repeating the same process at an increasing expense of time, money, and other resources. By combining multiple cases into a single venue and process, the burden on the court system is lessened while plaintiffs and defendants are still allotted their fair day in court through a combined process:

Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee

Appointed by the Transferee Court, this committee, composed of experienced attorneys selected from included cases, will direct the efficient representation of plaintiffs in the multi-district litigation. This team will work to identify common questions of fact in the involved cases and decide how best to move forward in relation to them.


This unified structure allows for a discovery process that reviews all relevant evidence, deposes witnesses and experts for the involved cases, and has the opportunity to compile a more complete picture of the facts surrounding the case.

Pre-Trial Motions

Under multi-district litigation, pre-trial motions will apply to all cases being litigated. This means that avenues that may not have been open to cases individually for relief are available for all member cases.

A Comprehensive Trial Package

At the end of the process, attorneys for the plaintiffs will receive complete access to all information relating to the cases covered by the MDL, which they can then use to litigate the portions of their clients’ cases that are not held in common, such as individual damages.

The Benefits Of Multi-District Litigation To Plaintiffs

The MDL process can help some plaintiffs get the compensation they deserve faster. The more efficient pre-trial process can help weaker cases strengthen their argument and strong cases improve their leverage.

This may lead to settlement offers defendants would otherwise have chosen to fight in court, increased damages based on information previously unknown to a specific plaintiff or attorney, and a more favorable litigation process overall. Unlike class action lawsuits where all claims dispositions are tied to a single finding, MDL mass tort cases still offer plaintiffs and attorneys the chance to address the unique aspects of each case and fight for the best compensation on an individual basis while still discovering and applying a wider-ranging body of evidence.

Questions About Joining A Multi-District Litigation Case?

As MDL cases develop, it’s not uncommon for additional cases to emerge leading to a mass tort case. Your attorney can talk to you about the specifics of your claim, how it relates to other proceedings and what multi-district litigation is going to mean for how you seek compensation.

Get started with a free consultation with a lawyer who will listen to your situation, work to understand your claim, and explain the options available to help you get the compensation you deserve. Call Anapol Weiss about your case today.