The Expanding Role of Multidistrict Consolidation in Federal Civil Litigation: An Empirical Investigation

35 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2009 Last revised: 21 Oct 2010

See all articles by Emery G. Lee

Emery G. Lee

Federal Judicial Center

Margaret S. Williams

Federal Judicial Center; Visiting Scholar

Richard A. Nagareda

Vanderbilt University Law School (Deceased)

Joe S. Cecil

Federal Judicial Center

Thomas E. Willging

Federal Judicial Center

Kevin M. Scott

United States Department of Justice

Date Written: July 10, 2010

Abstract

Following the judiciary’s experience with aggregate litigation in the 1960s, Congress established a procedure for the transfer of related cases to a single district court for coordinated pretrial proceedings. Originally designed to achieve efficiencies associated with coordinated discovery, the multidistrict litigation (MDL) process has evolved from a rather modest starting point to become a central part of aggregate litigation in the federal courts today. Despite its importance, however, there has been little empirical research into the MDL process. This article seeks to begin to fill this gap in the empirical literature by addressing a few central questions about the work of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (Panel) and the transferee courts. Using data provided by the Panel, we examine how that body has decided motions to transfer multidistrict litigation. We find, most importantly, that the Panel has become more likely to grant motions to order transfer of proceedings over time, after controlling for other factors. We also find, all else equal, that the Panel is more likely to transfer a proceeding including class allegations, and more likely to transfer proceedings raising certain kinds of claims. With respect to MDL cases (as distinguished from MDL proceedings, which involve multiple cases), we find that the overwhelming majority of MDL cases are products liability cases; asbestos cases make up a substantial part of the whole. We also find that the almost all cases considered by the Panel are made part of an ongoing MDL proceeding, and that, moreover, almost all cases made part of an ongoing MDL proceeding are closed in the transferee district. These findings suggest that transferee judges are taking a “maximalist” approach to pretrial proceedings in transferred cases.

Keywords: Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, multidistrict litigation, civil procedure, products liability

JEL Classification: K00, K13, K14

Suggested Citation

Lee, Emery G. and Williams, Margaret S. and Williams, Margaret S. and Nagareda, Richard Allen and Cecil, Joe S. and Willging, Tom and Scott, Kevin M., The Expanding Role of Multidistrict Consolidation in Federal Civil Litigation: An Empirical Investigation (July 10, 2010). 5th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1443375 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1443375

Emery G. Lee (Contact Author)

Federal Judicial Center ( email )

Washington, DC 20002
United States

Margaret S. Williams

Federal Judicial Center ( email )

Washington, DC 20002
United States
202-502-4080 (Phone)

Visiting Scholar ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Richard Allen Nagareda

Vanderbilt University Law School (Deceased)

Joe S. Cecil

Federal Judicial Center ( email )

Washington, DC 20002
United States

Tom Willging

Federal Judicial Center ( email )

Washington, DC 20002
United States
202-502-4049 (Phone)
202-502-4199 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://http:www.fjc.gov

Kevin M. Scott

United States Department of Justice ( email )

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
United States

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