500 N. State St., Jackson, MS 39201

(601) 948-1600 / TOLL FREE: (877) 231-1600

GULF COAST: (228) 248-1600

Mississippi Lawyer Blog

What are Differences Between MDL and Class Action?

Many people believe an MDL lawsuit is essentially the same as a class action lawsuit—a group of injured people who get together and sue the company or manufacturer of the product which caused their injuries.

Gavel and book

While this is true to some extent, there are some major—and very important—differences between and MDL lawsuit and a class action lawsuit.

Perhaps the primary difference between an MDL lawsuit and a class action lawsuit, is that a class action lawsuit is essentially one lawsuit with a single outcome. If the class action lawsuit is successful, the settlement amount is split between the plaintiffs, after attorney fees and other costs are deducted.

Typically, plaintiffs who take part in a class action lawsuit do not receive a very large settlement, and there is no distinction in a class action lawsuit between a plaintiff with severe injuries, and a plaintiff with more minor injuries. There are more differences between these two types of lawsuits, such as:

Multidistrict Litigation

Multidistrict litigation, (MDL) is a procedure used by federal courts to consolidate civil cases, involving similar issues. By consolidating similar cases to a single court, all pre-trial proceedings (such as discovery) go much more quickly and more efficiently, since all information is shared between attorneys for the plaintiffs and attorneys for the defendants. In general, MDLs promote consistency between similar lawsuits, since a single court rules on all pre-trial proceedings.

As an example, perhaps hundreds of plaintiffs want to question the quality manager of a manufacturer accused of making defective hip implants. Rather than having the manager appear hundreds of times in different courts across the nation, at different times, under an MDL the manager can be questioned just one time.

Another advantage of a class action lawsuit is that it allows a leveraged settlement without the need to litigate claims individually. This means that patients who have been severely harmed by a product, medical device or dangerous drug, could receive a much larger settlement than a person who suffered harm, but had less severe injuries. Each case in an MDL is tried separately, therefore each case receives a settlement (or loses the lawsuit) on its own merit.

In an MDL, cases with common factual or legal issues are grouped together for discovery, pre-trial hearings, trial scheduling and settlement conferences, however for verdicts and settlement purposes, each lawsuit is separate. When a person becomes part of an MDL, the individual facts of his or her case are heard, and the settlement is based on the level of harm the jury believes the patient suffered.

Since resources are combined in an MDL—as well as in a class action—the costs of litigation are reduced, meaning there is more money left over for the plaintiffs. In an MDL, plaintiffs have typically been damaged in ways which are unique enough that a class action is not feasible, however pursuing individual claims separately is not efficient or practical.

MDLs also have bellwether trials—cases are chosen which most accurately represent the majority of the cases, then tried, so both sides can determine how strong their case actually is. When a large corporation loses a number of bellwether trials, they may decide it is more economically feasible to offer a settlement to all plaintiffs who are a part of the MDL. Although an MDL is a federal court proceeding, there are similar state consolidated case structures in some states which accomplish the same thing as far as the plaintiffs are concerned.

Class Action Lawsuits

Should you choose to join a class action lawsuit, while it is more likely there will be a settlement as a result of the defendant’s desire to avoid huge losses, you are also less likely to obtain a very large settlement, as the total settlement is split equally between all plaintiffs. Also, plaintiffs who suffered only minor damages would not find it worth their while to file an individual lawsuit, therefore a class action might allow them to get at least a small settlement, with little effort or hassle.

Once a class action lawsuit is filed, all potential class action members are allowed to join in, however once a class action lawsuit reaches a settlement, those who were a part of the class action may not file an individual lawsuit for the same issue. Prior to a class action lawsuit being allowed to proceed, it must be certified. Federal courts require the following for a class action certification:


  • There are a large enough number of plaintiffs that it would be impractical for the courts to hear each case individually.
  • Approximately the same legal claim, and injuries are shared by the potential class action members.
  • There is a class “representative” who will represent and protect the interests of the entire class of plaintiffs.

While those in a class action are a group who have voluntarily joined together, an MDL is a court-initiated action which forces a large number of individual lawsuits to be transferred. Some victims of a defective product or medical device, or a dangerous drug, turn to a class action lawsuit as a means of avoiding “going it alone,” with the understanding that if the class action lawsuit is successful, they are bound by their share of the settlement, and may not pursue further legal action. Those who choose to opt-out of the class action lawsuit, are then free to pursue legal action on their own, whether through an individual lawsuit or by joining an MDL.

Getting Help with Your Product Liability Lawsuit

It is extremely important that you discuss the issues related to the merits of a class action lawsuit vs. an MDL or individual lawsuit with your Mississippi product liability attorney. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best course of action for you. Filing a lawsuit can be a scary undertaking for many people, however filing a lawsuit may be the only way you can ensure a negligent manufacturer is made to pay for marketing an unsafe device, product or drug. A Mississippi product liability attorney who is compassionate to your injuries, yet has strong negotiation and litigation skills can help guide you through the process.

At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys believe in fighting aggressively for injured Mississippi victims – to ensure that they receive the money they need to fully recover. We can help you obtain the money you need to fully recover. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at 1-601-948-1600, 1-877-231-1600 or click on the button below.


Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

Contact Hernia Mesh Attorney in Mississippi

Recent Posts