FACT SHEET

 

WHY FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE NEED TO BE DESIGNED

TO APPLY TO MULTIDISTRICT LITIGATION CASES

  • The Federal Civil Caseload is Concentrated in MDLs: As of September 30, 2018, there were 301,766 civil cases pending in the federal district court system. Of those, 156,511 cases sat within 248 MDLs and accounted for 51.9 percent of federal civil cases.[1]
     

    • 24 MDLs have more than 1,000 pending claims, accounting for 140,052 pending cases.[2]
       

    • Only 21 judgeships are assigned 46.4 percent of the entire federal civil docket.[3]
       

    • This concentration trend is increasing: nearly 52 percent of the civil cases pending in the nation’s federal district courts are now consolidated in MDL proceedings, up from just 16 percent 16 years earlier.[4][5]

 

  • FRCP Was Not Designed For MDLs Today: The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), which govern all civil actions and proceedings in U.S. district courts, were not designed for the large number of parties that exist in many MDL cases today. 
     

    • For instance, in most MDLs there is no practical standard or procedure for verifying plaintiffs’ claims and dismissing the ones that lack merit. Some MDL courts take it upon themselves to create ad hoc procedures for that purpose, with mixed success. Others ignore the issue altogether.  This lack of consistent rules is a major reason why MDL dockets can contain a high number of meritless claims. 
       

    • In the Vioxx MDL litigation, for example, the court developed three requirements for the qualification of claims following settlement. Out of 48,362 claims that went through the process, 15,287 failed – nearly one-third – because they could not or did not demonstrate the basic facts necessary to recover.[6]
       

    • Overall, there are six areas in the FRCP that could be adapted to furnish MDL cases with the same procedural clarity enjoyed by the rest of the federal civil case docket: pleadings, dismissal, joinder, discovery disclosures, trial, and appellate review.  

 

 

[1] Based on Duke Law Center methodology. Civil cases include all cases minus social security and prisoner cases, except death penalty cases. 
https://www.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/data_tables/jb_c3a_0930.2018.pdf;

https://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/JPML_Statistical_Analysis_of_Multidistrict_Litigation-FY-2018.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://judicialstudies.duke.edu/sites/default/files/centers/judicialstudies/MDL_Standards_and_Best_Practices_2014-REVISED.pdf  

[6] http://www.laed.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/vioxx/Transcripts/072710.transcript.pdf

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rules4MDLs is sponsored by Lawyers for Civil Justice, a national coalition of defense trial lawyer organizations, law firms, and corporations that promotes excellence and fairness in the civil justice system to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of civil cases. For more information, please contact Andrea Looney at alooney@lfcj.com.

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