"I can understand why everyone wants a bite at the apple for their own client, but at some point you have to take into account judicial economy," Stevenson said.
Turning to the MDL panel is not forum shopping because parties cannot control where the case winds up, Stevenson said. And cases are ultimately sent back to home districts for trial so "it doesn't get you a different jury," he added.
"I don't think it's that strategic of a weapon," he said. "It's really a cost reduction and efficiency enhancer."
Congress created the MDL panel in 1968 to determine whether similar civil actions pending in different federal districts should be centralized and transferred to one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
The panel consists of seven sitting federal judges from different judicial circuits appointed by the chief justice of the United States. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco was appointed to the panel earlier this year.
The bulk of matters considered for MDLs are mass tort claims, including product liability suits against drugmakers, where thousands of cases might be filed across the country.
Another big area involves antitrust cases, such as the massive MDL over alleged price-fixing in the market for thin-screen LCD panels being handled by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco.
Patent cases have traditionally been a minor category of cases. Of 284 open MDL dockets, just 18 are patent cases.
But the judges of the MDL panel have been paying attention to recent shifts and seem to be gearing up for more patent-related matters.
Last month, several member judges participated in a forum sponsored by the State Bar of Texas that included topics like "What Patent Litigators Need to Know about MDL" and "To MDL or Not to MDL: Views from the Trenches."