What is Multidistrict Litigation?

courthouse.jpgYou may not know what multidistrict litigation is, but many U.S. corn farmers probably do.

That’s because thousands of corn producers in this country currently are involved in multidistrict litigation with Swiss-based Syngenta over the company’s decision to sell two versions of genetically modified corn in the United States before China agreed to accept them.

Gray, Ritter & Graham attorney Don Downing is co-lead counsel representing all the plaintiffs in their lawsuits against Syngenta, who suffered severe economic damages when China, a major buyer of U.S. corn, refused shipments of all U.S. corn due to its concerns with the two genetically modified varieties.

Complex Lawsuits Consolidated in Federal Court

So what is multidistrict litigation? It’s an avenue established in Congress in 1968 designed to make the legal process more efficient. It allows for numerous similar, complex civil lawsuits all across the country to be consolidated in one federal court. To qualify for multidistrict litigation, the group of lawsuits must have at least one question of fact in common.

A panel of seven federal judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States makes the decision on whether or not to move a group of lawsuits into multidistrict litigation.

One set of attorneys are selected to represent all the plaintiffs, based on a federal judge’s review of the attorney qualifications. Don Downing, a co-lead plaintiff counsel in the Syngenta action, also was selected co-lead plaintiffs counsel in a similar MDL that involved genetically modified rice. In that case, U.S. rice growers received a $750 million settlement.

Bellwether Trials

Eventually, a series of bellwether trials – involving a few of the plaintiffs – are held to indicate the likely outcomes of all the lawsuits in the MDL. The Bayer MDL settlement was made after such bellwether trials. This differs from a class action lawsuit, in which only one trial is held and the outcome applies to all plaintiffs.

If you’ve been seriously hurt financially by the negligence of a huge corporation, there may be others in the same boat. An attorney experienced in mass tort litigation can level the playing field and seek financial justice for you and others who have suffered similarly.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.