Class Action vs. Multidistrict Litigation

Dangerous drug and medical devices lawsuits are typically broken into two categories: multidistrict litigation (MDL) or class action. While both simplify the litigation process against large manufacturers, an expert legal counsel can advise of the best option based on an individual's compensation needs.


Every year, millions of people rely on prescription drugs and other medical devices to improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, many manufacturers focus on increasing profits rather than consumer safety. Quickly pushing out new drugs without proper testing can cause more harm than good and may lead to serious complications. However, people who experience negative side effects from dangerous drugs or products may be entitled to compensation.

Annually, more than 1.5 million injuries are caused by defective drugs and medical devices.

Oftentimes, a large group of people suffer similar problems from a defective drug or product. In these instances, the manufacturer may face thousands of legal cases in courts throughout the country as a result of their negligence. In order for courts to effectively handle the cases, drug lawsuits are often categorized as class action lawsuits or multidistrict litigation (MDL).

Although both types of cases are handled under a single court, there are many differences in the legal process that separate them.

Class action lawsuits:

  •      Affected individuals file a single lawsuit against the same defendant.
  •      Harmful issues are identical or extremely similar among every member.
  •      Those who opt-in eliminate the opportunity to pursue their own claim.
  •      Any funds awarded are divided and split between all individuals.

Multidistrict litigation (MDL):

  •      Individuals who have been affected file separate lawsuits against the manufacturer.
  •      The defective drug or product has affected each person in unique ways.
  •      Cases are transferred to help manage pretrial proceedings.
  •      In the case of a settlement, compensation is based on the injuries claimed.
Victims of dangerous drugs and defective medical devices win billions of dollars in multidistrictlitigation lawsuits every year.

Class Action Lawsuits

Class Action LawsuitThough not as common as in previous years, class action lawsuits involve a group of injured people who file a single lawsuit against a defendant. Although these lawsuits vary depending on each case, two standard characteristics include:

  1. The entire group experienced equal injuries.
  2. The number of people affected is so large, it’s unrealistic to split into individual lawsuits.

Other individuals who may be affected are also entitled to receive notice about the lawsuit. Typically, attempts to notify people may involve reaching out to various media such as television, radio or newspaper. Those who choose to participate opt in to the case and are then unable to file an individual lawsuit in the future.

Large amounts of money go unclaimed because people are unaware of a class action lawsuit or are unfamiliar with how to get their claim.

In addition to effectively managing a large number of cases, class action lawsuits collect evidence from all parties involved which helps prove manufacturer wrongdoing. Should a settlement be reached, members of the lawsuit will receive either a percentage or a specific dollar amount of the total payout

Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)Generally, lawsuits against drug manufacturers are multidistrict litigation (MDL) cases rather than class action. An MDL entails separate lawsuits against the manufacturer and helps ensure the individual receives compensation to cover any medical bills and lost wages.

Usually if there are a large number of cases against the same company, a judicial panel will decide if they should be transferred to an MDL. By selecting a district convenient for the majority of parties and witness involved, consolidating cases to a single court helps keep consistency and reduces litigation costs.

Common factors of an MDL include:

  1.     Cases that involve one or more similarities in regards to an individual’s injuries.
  2.     Unique, complex matters relating to the adverse effects of defective drugs or products.
An MDL pools resources together from all cases while allowing each individual’s concern to be addressed.

To avoid having hundreds of state and federal judges preside over similar pretrial motions, an MDL has one judge decide what will apply to each individual lawsuit. In addition, to ensure all parties involved are represented in a well-defined manner, a Plaintiff Steering Committee will be formed. The court is then able to group similar matters together, and generally only requires key persons to testify once. This allows legal proceedings to move at a quicker pace than if the cases were handled in separate courts. Without an MDL, some cases may win and others may lose in different courts.

Discover your Legal Options

Because of the complexity of drug lawsuits, it’s important to have a legal team with experience in these cases. We take the time to listen to your needs and find the best solution based on your specific circumstances. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a defective drug or product, take action now. There are no upfront costs and your legal counsel is only paid if your case wins. It’s time to get justice.

Sources & Author

Last Edited: August 4, 2016