Just over 50 years ago, Congress passed the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Act, with the intent to make it more efficient for parties to litigate factually similar but geographically dispersed complex cases. While the statute today is virtually unchanged from the original version, what has changed is the number of cases in MDLs. Ten years ago, MDLs represented only 15 percent of the civil caseload. By 2018, however, that number had more than tripled, and MDLs accounted for almost 47 percent of the total civil caseload in the United States. Product liability MDLs alone make up almost 90 percent of pending MDLs.
As the number of MDLs has grown, so has the focus on the MDL process and whether the process is working. One frequent criticism is that a significant percent – between 30-40 percent – of cases filed in any MDL turn out (often at the settlement stage) to be unsupportable. Why is this the case? Likely in part because the MDL process does not have an effective mechanism to weed out non-meritorious cases early. This post addresses the meritless claim problem and analyzes some proposed solutions.