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, 2020, there were 521,927 civil cases pending in the federal district court system. Of those, 327,204 cases sat within 176 MDLs and accounted for 62.7 percent of federal civil cases.[1]
     

    • 16 MDLs have more than 1,000 pending claims, accounting for 312,128 pending cases.[2]
       

    • Only 16 judgeships are assigned 59.8 percent of the entire federal civil docket.[3]
       

    • This concentration trend is increasing: nearly 63 percent of the civil cases pending in the nation’s federal district courts are now consolidated in MDL proceedings, up from just 16 percent 18 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_0930.2020.pdf

https://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/Fiscal_Year_Statistics-2020_1.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