The MDL Model for Resolving Complex Litigation if a Class Action is Not Possible

30 Pages Posted: 27 May 2009

Date Written: June 1, 2008


This article reviews the origins and development of multidistrict litigation before proceeding to examine its ability to take the place of class actions for the resolution of complex litigation. After noting that class actions are increasingly unavailable, particularly in pharmaceutical products liability cases, the article explores the management of the In re Vioxx Products Liability Litigation MDL. The article concludes that the MDL model can allow for the efficient resolution of complex litigation where a class action is not available, but creative management by the MDL transferee court is crucial. Highlighted are the use bellwether trials and the global settlement across jurisdictional lines, crafted by counsel in both federal and state courts and blessed and overseen in its execution by the MDL court. Professional ethics issues regarding requiring opting-in plaintiffs' attorneys to urge their clients to participate in the global settlement and, if not, to withdraw, are discussed. The growing use of multidistrict transfers of discreet litigation to a single court in various states is examined. Finally, the article calls for Congress to enhance the powers of MDL courts and to learn from the experience of the states and district courts that have experimented, often on an ad hoc basis, with the MDL model.

Keywords: multidistrict litigation, complex litigation

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Sherman, Edward F., The MDL Model for Resolving Complex Litigation if a Class Action is Not Possible (June 1, 2008). Tulane Law Review, Vol. 82, No. 6, 2008, Tulane Public Law Research Paper No. 08-12, Available at SSRN:

Edward F. Sherman (Contact Author)

Tulane University Law School ( email )

6329 Freret Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

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