An Overview of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML)

by | Sep 7, 2023 | Defective Drugs, Defective Product, Defective Toys, Multidistrict Litigation, Personal Injury, Product Liability, Sexual Assault

In the vast landscape of the U.S. federal court system, cases involving similar issues, parties, or facts can multiply and overwhelm the judiciary. To efficiently manage this complexity, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) was established as a unique and essential component of the federal legal system.

In the article below, the mass tort attorneys at Kherkher Garcia, LLP explain the history of the JPML, how it operates, what multidistrict litigation (MDL) is, and how MDL status can help victims obtain justice.

What is the JPML?

The JPML is a panel of seven federal district court judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States. Their primary responsibility is to oversee and coordinate the transfer of federal civil cases involving common questions of fact, known as multidistrict litigation (MDL), to a single district court for pretrial proceedings. MDL cases typically involve mass torts, product liability claims, securities fraud, antitrust violations, and other complex litigation.

Why Does the JPML Exist?

  • Efficiency: One of the key goals of the JPML is to promote judicial efficiency by avoiding duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings, and conflicting pretrial decisions. Centralizing cases in one district streamlines proceedings.
  • Consistency: Consolidating similar cases under a single judge ensures consistent legal interpretations and outcomes, benefiting both plaintiffs and defendants.
  • Resource Conservation: MDL helps conserve judicial resources and reduces the burden on courts, parties, and witnesses by avoiding repetitive litigation.
  • Fairness: It promotes fairness by giving parties equal access to evidence and information, preventing forum-shopping tactics.

How Does the JPML Operate?

When multiple cases with common issues are filed in various federal courts, any party can petition the JPML to centralize these cases. After considering arguments from all parties, the JPML decides whether centralization is appropriate. If approved, a specific district court is selected to handle pretrial proceedings, including discovery, motions, and settlement discussions.

Once pretrial matters are resolved, cases may be remanded back to their original courts for trial or other final proceedings. The JPML’s role is strictly limited to coordinating pretrial matters, and the panel does not determine the outcome of individual cases.

Benefits and Criticisms

The JPML plays a crucial role in addressing the complexities of modern litigation. It facilitates more efficient and equitable resolution of cases with widespread impact. However, some critics argue that centralization may delay the progress of individual cases and diminish the power of local courts.

An Overview of Multidistrict Litigation

The MDL statute, also known as 28 U.S.C. § 1407, is a federal law that allows for the transfer of civil actions involving one or more common questions of fact to a single district court for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings. The statute was enacted in 1968 to address the problem of complex litigation being handled in multiple courts, which can lead to duplication of effort, inefficiency, and delay.

The MDL statute is relatively short and straightforward. It provides that:

  • The JPML, which is composed of seven appellate and district court judges from different circuits, may transfer civil actions to any district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings.
  • The JPML may transfer an action only if it finds that transfer is in the interest of justice and that transfers will:
    • Promote the just and efficient conduct of pretrial proceedings;
    • Avoid unnecessary costs and duplicative litigation; and
    • Protect the interests of parties and witnesses.
  • The JPML may assign the transferred actions to a single judge or to a panel of judges.
  • The transferred actions shall be conducted by the assigned judge or judges in accordance with the rules of the transferee district court.

The MDL statute has been used to consolidate a wide variety of complex litigation, including product liability cases, securities fraud cases, and mass tort cases. It has been credited with helping to streamline the litigation process and reduce costs for both plaintiffs and defendants.

Benefits and Drawbacks of the MDL Statute

Here are some of the benefits of using the MDL statute:

  • It can help to streamline the litigation process by centralizing all pretrial proceedings in a single court.
  • It can reduce costs by avoiding duplication of effort and expense.
  • It can help to protect the interests of parties and witnesses by ensuring that they are not required to travel to multiple courts for depositions and other proceedings.
  • It can promote the just and efficient conduct of pretrial proceedings by allowing the assigned judge or judges to develop a comprehensive understanding of the case and to make rulings that are consistent with the law and the facts.

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to using the MDL statute:

  • It can be time-consuming and expensive to transfer cases to an MDL.
  • The JPML may not be able to transfer all of the cases that are filed in different districts.
  • The transferee court may not be familiar with the specific facts of the case, which can make it difficult to conduct efficient pretrial proceedings.
  • The MDL process can be complex and may not be appropriate for all cases.

Overall, the MDL statute is a valuable tool that can be used to manage complex litigation. However, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of using the MDL statute before making a decision about whether to transfer a case to an MDL.

Recent Notable Multidistrict Litigation Cases

Multidistrict litigation cases stem from a wide variety of situations, events, actions, and products. Here are some notable recent MDL cases:

In re Juul Labs, Inc. Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation (MDL 2913)

This MDL involves lawsuits against Juul Labs, Inc., the maker of e-cigarettes, for its marketing and sales practices. The plaintiffs allege that Juul falsely marketed its products as safe and effective, and that its products are addictive and harmful to health. The MDL is currently in the discovery phase.

In re Facebook Internet Tracking Litigation (MDL 2314)

This MDL involves lawsuits against Facebook, Inc., for its use of tracking cookies and other technologies to collect data on its users. The plaintiffs allege that Facebook violated their privacy rights by collecting this data without their consent. The MDL is currently in the settlement negotiations phase.

In re Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Liability Litigation (MDL 2738)

This MDL involves lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for its talcum powder products, which have been linked to ovarian cancer. The plaintiffs allege that Johnson & Johnson knew about the cancer risks associated with talcum powder but failed to warn consumers. The MDL is currently in the discovery phase.

In re Invokana and Jardiance Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation (MDL 2750)

This MDL involves lawsuits against AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim, the makers of the diabetes drugs Invokana and Jardiance, for their marketing and sales practices. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants falsely marketed these drugs as safe and effective, and that they failed to warn about the serious side effects, such as kidney failure and ketoacidosis. The MDL is currently in the discovery phase.

In re Proton-Pump Inhibitor (PPI) Products Liability Litigation (MDL 2789)

This MDL involves lawsuits against the makers of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), a class of drugs used to treat heartburn and acid reflux. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants failed to warn about the serious side effects of PPIs, such as increased risk of kidney disease and fractures. The MDL is currently in the discovery phase.

These are just a few of the many notable recent MDL cases. There are also many potential MDL cases, such as Uber sexual assault claims, that are soon to be considered by the JPML for consolidation into MDL 3084. These cases involve complex legal issues and are often very costly to litigate. However, they can also result in significant settlements or verdicts for the plaintiffs.

Have Questions about a Potential Claim?

It can be difficult to understand the complexities of the JPML and MDL status. Fortunately, victims who have claims do not have to navigate this area of law on their own. At Kherkher Garcia, our attorneys are skilled negotiators and litigators. We are fierce advocates for the rights of our clients, and will do what is in your best interests.

Sometimes, that is litigating a case on its own; but other times, it is participating in an MDL. It is important to know that our attorneys will work toward the best outcome possible for your claim. Every case is different, and we will apply the best legal strategy for YOUR case.

If you have questions about a potential claim, contact us for a free consultation with our attorneys. We are here to help – all you have to do is call us at 713-333-1030, or complete our online contact form to get started.

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Bret Stanley

Bret Stanley

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Bret Stanley. Bret is a practicing injury lawyer with more than 12 years experience. He has won Millions in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Bret’s practice areas have focused on helping clients with rideshare sexual assault, product liability, pharmaceutical device and drug claims, mass tort litigation, catastrophic personal injury litigation, complex insurance litigation, and Jones Act / Maritime Injury litigation.

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