When many people all suffer similar injuries or suffer injuries in the same way, the courts can combine their claims into a class action lawsuit or multidistrict litigation (MDL). Class action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation allow courts to process the cases faster. Without these tools, it could take decades for the courts to hear and rule on each individual case.
Class action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation are similar in some ways, but very different in others. While both are tools that combine different cases to aid the plaintiffs and speed the process along, the way they do this differs.
Class action lawsuits combine individual plaintiffs into a single lawsuit. In multidistrict litigation (MDL), the court groups similar cases and decides them in one court.
When do courts group cases into class action lawsuits or multidistrict litigation?
Some types of cases lend themselves to these types of civil actions more than others. Most car accident cases do not have enough victims for a class action suit or MDL. However, it is not uncommon to use these tools in product liability, employment law, or defective drug cases.
Class action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation both streamline the legal process when a group of claimants have similar cases. Some class action suits and MDLs center on a handful of cases, while others include hundreds of plaintiffs.
They are effective in helping courts sort through any backlog of cases and getting settlements to victims faster. When the courts group cases together into a class action suit or MDL, it helps speed the legal process.
It is difficult for an individual to take on a corporation, even when strict liability statutes make it easier to prove his/her case. Class action suits and MDL cases allow the plaintiffs and their lawyers to pool resources, in addition to ensuring all participants receive a court decision in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise.
How do class action lawsuits work?
Class action lawsuits begin when a group of claimants consolidates all relevant cases into one. The attorneys for this group then identify one case to serve as the class representative. It is usually one that best represents all members of the group.
The attorneys then file a complaint, and the class representatives request class certification from the court. In order for the court to approve this, all members of the group need to have similar injuries all caused by the same party. Other considerations of the court include:
- The number of potential class members
- The strength of the class representative case(s)
- Whether the class representatives truly represent other class members
- The common questions raised by each individual case
If the court rejects class certification, each case continues individually. When the court grants class certification, the process of identifying and notifying other members of the class begins.
This is why you often see commercials on television asking if you experienced symptoms after taking a certain drug or undergoing a specific procedure. These commercials are a part of the notification process. This notification process allows any eligible party to join the class action suit, preventing the court from having to hear additional cases in the future.
If other individuals can show they also suffered damages similar to those of the class representatives, they can receive a portion of the settlement or award when the case ends. This, however, waives their right to sue over these damages in the future. Alternatively, they can opt out of the class action suit. This preserves their right to file a separate lawsuit over these damages.
Class action lawsuits often settle before going to court. If there is no settlement, the court hears the class representatives’ cases and rules on them. When the class wins the case, the judge awards compensation. The members of the class split this money.
How does multidistrict litigation work?
Multidistrict litigation is often a good option for complex cases against the same defendant, such as after a train crash. A panel of seven federal judges, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, oversees these cases. The United States passed a federal law establishing this panel in 1968.
These seven judges determine whether to consolidate cases into multidistrict litigation. Unlike class action lawsuits, this process is entirely in the hands of the court. The goal of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is to reduce time and cost associated with hearing a large number of claims filed against a common defendant.
Once the judges decide to consolidate cases, they assign a judge to the multidistrict litigation. This is often a judge in a district court already presiding over one or more of the cases. This judge oversees the pretrial proceedings and the discovery process.
These pretrial proceedings and the discovery process are often the most time-consuming and expensive part of any case. Since all the cases share a common basis, it is not necessary for each attorney to request and review documents, depose witnesses, or conduct other time-consuming research. This is the primary advantage of multidistrict litigation.
Often, settlements occur during the pretrial and discovery process. When this happens, the judge oversees negotiations for all the cases grouped into the MDL. Each individual claimant can choose to accept the settlement terms or continue with his/her case. After the lawyers complete the discovery process, the judge sends any remaining cases back to the court where they originated for trial.
What do I need to do if I believe I may qualify for a class action or MDL case in Toledo?
Class action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation, by their very nature, affect many people. If you saw a Toledo television commercial, received direct mail, or simply believe you may qualify to participate in one of these actions, you need to contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible.
At Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., L.P.A., our lawyers can help you navigate the process of joining this type of civil action, and recover the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 419-843-6663 to get started.