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Key Differences between Class Action and Multidistrict Litigation

Class Action and Multidistrict Litigation

An attorney may have to deal with diverse cases and lawsuits such as mass tort, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation and more. Such cases mostly require medical records review, as medical records provide the evidence to support the lawsuit. When it comes to product liability, if there are many plaintiffs who suffer similar injuries due to the same product or act of negligence, attorneys recommend filing large lawsuit options to streamline the claims – namely, mass tort or multidistrict litigation (MDL) or class actions.

Instead of filing hundreds of individual lawsuits against the product’s manufacturer, it is best to file the lawsuits together, as this would strengthen the case. Individual lawsuits are also costly and time-consuming.

Class action lawsuits and mass tort litigation help the courts to deal with a large number of similar cases quickly and efficiently. Even though these terms seem similar, they involve very different nature of injuries, litigation and settlement distribution processes. The common factor is that plaintiffs in both the cases have suffered damages or injuries from the same defendant.

Let us check out the differences between Class Action and Multidistrict Litigation.

Class Action

Class action refers to a class or a group of plaintiffs who suffer the same or substantially similar injuries and sue the same defendant, usually a large corporation, for injuries caused by common actions. In most cases, the defendant would settle the case rather than continue the litigation. Here, the court treats these groups of plaintiffs or class as a single plaintiff. A group of class representatives acts in the interest of the entire injured group. These class representatives are responsible to prove the facts or argue the nature of injuries on behalf of the entire plaintiff group. However, the outcome of this case applies to all other members of the group as well.

As a handful of individuals represent the group of plaintiffs, the court does not hear how the defendant’s negligence affected each person individually. Instead, a settlement value will be assigned based on the available evidence and an equal portion will go to each plaintiff. It doesn’t matter whether he or she was part of the representative group. Often, the compensation in these lawsuits will be small, as the court divides the settlement among many individuals.

Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

Mass tort cases are consolidated either in state court or by moving them to federal court for Multidistrict Litigation. MDL refers to plaintiffs who may have different injuries from the same defendant or group of defendants. All these lawsuits are joined before one federal judge for the purpose of discovery and important legal rulings. As the court views each plaintiff as an individual, each plaintiff has to prove the facts and circumstances surrounding his or her individual injuries and how the defendant’s negligence is responsible for his or her damages. MDL usually takes many years to resolve, as the law firms appointed by the judge routinely take time trying to prove the case for the plaintiffs.

Here, the distribution of the court’s settlement differs from class action processes. The court will assign a settlement value to each plaintiff based on the nature of his or her exposure, causation, injuries, and damages.

Major Differences – Key Takeaway Points

Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Class Action
Nature of Injuries Plaintiffs may have different injuries from the same party Multiple plaintiffs suffer similar injuries from the same party
How the Court Views Each Plaintiff Court views each plaintiff as an individual and they should prove the facts regarding injuries and damages Court treats a group of plaintiffs as a single plaintiff and class representatives prove the facts on behalf of the group
Court Settlement Value Court assigns a settlement value to each plaintiff based on the nature of his or her damages Court will assign a settlement value based on the available evidence, and an equal portion will go to each plaintiff

Attorneys or law firms handling mass tort, class action or multidistrict litigation have to collect necessary evidence such as relevant medical records to prove the claim. Professional mass tort litigation support can ease the processes of collection, organization and tracking of responses for large numbers of medical records including charts, doctors’ notes and more.

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