Recall lawyer on MDLs and class actions: What’s the best fit?

A recalled metal hip implant is the subject of a mass tort, but a recalled can of peanut butter might lead to a class action lawsuit. Likewise, claims over a defective camera are treated as a class action, while injuries caused by dangerous hormone therapy medication are dealt with using a mass tort vehicle known as Multi-District Litigation, or MDL.

In a case with hundreds or even thousands of plaintiffs, most consumers think of a class action lawsuit as the most common vehicle to bring their claims against a defendant. But there are many instances when an MDL is the more appropriate tool to seek justice. What is the difference between the two? Here’s a primer:

Class Action Lawsuits

Most class action lawsuits involve similar claims made by large numbers of people regarding a defective or recalled consumer product. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, which covers class actions, requires the following:
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;

(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class;

(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and

(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

The above requirements often fit well with a case where the injuries are very similar. For example, thousands of people from the same neighborhood are evacuated due to a train derailment; their property is polluted with chemicals from a spill; they become sick after buying the same tainted food from the grocery store; or their cars — the same make and model — lose value due to a series of recalls. The remedy in a class action can be large or small; it can be in the form of a coupon for $20, or a single payment of $1 million. Deciding to file a class action lawsuit depends on many factors, including the venue, the class representative(s), the defendant, the chance of class certification, and the product or service at issue. The attorneys at Jones Ward PLC represent consumers in numerous class action cases, from pharmacies and banks to railroads, camera equipment, and consumer data breaches.

Mass Torts and the MDL

The phrase mass tort can apply to either a class action case or an MDL. However, in practice, this phrase is more often used to describe a case with multiple plaintiffs that is part of an MDL. Congress created the MDL tool with 28 U.S.C. §1407, which allows a panel of judges to centralize similar cases before a single federal judge to promote efficiency, conserve resources, and prevent inconsistent pre-trial rulings. Unlike a class action, plaintiffs in an MDL retain their right to an individual jury trial, and their cases may be remanded back to their home jurisdiction once discovery and other pre-trial matters are finished. This gives plaintiffs greater control over the outcome of their individual cases, while at the same time, sharing resources in a common struggle against a larger and better-funded defendant. Here are a few examples of current MDLs in which Jones Ward PLC is involved:
• In re: DePuy Orthopaedics ASR Hip Implant Litigation MDL 2197 (defective metal hip implants).
• In re: Yasmin and Yaz (Drospirenone) Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation MDL No. 2100 (birth control pills).
• In re: C.R. Bard Inc., Pelvic Repair System Products Liability Litigation MDL 2187 (one of half a dozen cases involving failed vaginal mesh).
In recent years, the MDL has replaced the class action as the primary means of litigating complex mass torts. More than 89,000 cases were pending in MDLs nationwide at the end of the last fiscal year, from the sprawling mesh litigation mentioned above (more than 30,000 cases overall), to Skechers Toning Shoe cases (490 plaintiffs) in front of Judge Thomas Russell of the Western District of Kentucky. Compared to class action cases, MDLs are more likely to include claims with physical injuries caused by medical devices made by companies such as DePuy, Biomet, Zimmer, Stryker, or Smith & Nephew, or pharmaceutical products made by Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and others.

Free Case Evaluation

To read an article with more details about settling mass tort lawsuits, click here. Every case is different. Class action lawsuits can even be consolidated into their own MDL. If you have been injured by a defective product or service, and you want to learn more about a possible class action or MDL case, call Attorney Alex C. Davis for a free case evaluation at 502-882-6000, or send an email to