The multidistrict litigation caseload has more than doubled since 2001. In this special report, The National Law Journal examines the impact of the mounting number of MDLs, including cases related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and defective Toyota vehicles.
Swelling docket challenges system
The number of cases winding their way through the multidistrict litigation process across the country has more than doubled during the past decade, inundating both the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, which decides where those cases should be consolidated, and the federal judges who ultimately end up handling discovery in such complex cases.
MDL hearings can take on carnival atmosphere
On July 29, plaintiffs' lawyers flocked to federal courthouse in Boise, Idaho, where the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation heard oral arguments about the hundreds of lawsuits filed against BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, for a chance to talk for one or two minutes.
Sometimes the small fry get swept up in the net
The MDL process is not limited to cases in which a few defendants are alleged to have done a great deal of harm to a large number of plaintiffs, such as in the case of an airplane crash or a drug with harmful side effects; it increasingly is being used to manage litigation challenging an industrywide practice involving large numbers of defendants. In these cases, the process can create a snowball effect, dragging in companies that might never have been named absent the consolidated proceeding.