The Opioid Litigation generally refers to the collective number of lawsuits (in the thousands) that have been filed around the country. There are several separate opioid litigations pending throughout the country in both state and federal courts. The largest litigation in the country is the national MDL – Multi-District Litigation – pending in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio.
What is an MDL?
MDL generally refers to a federal procedural mechanism developed and instituted in the late 1960s to assist the federal judiciary in managing complex (and often very large) litigations pending in multiple federal courts across the country. Congress enacted the federal “MDL” statute – 28 USC 1407 – in 1968, and charged the US Supreme Court with promulgating rules for its practice. This statute created the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation (MDL Panel), which assesses and determines the need for an MDL. In essence, where there is a number of cases pending in various different federal courts around the country concerning one or more common questions of fact and the same pharmaceutical drug, medical device or consumer issues, the Judicial Panel on Multi-district litigation may consider consolidation and transfer of all those similar cases to one single federal district court for purposes of coordinated pre-trial proceedings. This practice centers on the over-arching purpose of judicial efficiency.
What is the national Opiate MDL?
The national Opiate MDL (MDL 2804) was created in December 2017. Currently over 1,800 lawsuits have been consolidated and transferred to the federal court in Cleveland, Ohio (Northern District of Ohio) before the very experienced and well-educated MDL Judge Dan Polster. Pre-trial proceedings (i.e. discovery) have been ongoing since December 2017. There will be some trials conducted in the MDL – the first of which is scheduled to begin in October 2019. The hope is that these trials – also called “bellwether” trials – will aid the Court and Parties in better understanding what legal claims are viable (i.e. if there is enough evidence to support the variety of claims asserted) and the value of these claims. These are real trials which will result in real jury verdicts and final judgments. The idea is that these bellwether trials will better assist the Parties in assessing and negotiating some sort of global financial resolution of the thousands of cases pending in federal court.