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What is an “MDL” in relation to a defective drug case?

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Previous posts here have discussed the serious effects a defective medication can have on you. Because drugs are generally given to individuals who suffer from some form of illness, when a medicine is improperly prepared or manufactured, or has side effects that are not listed or have not been evaluated by the federal Food and Drug Administration, the results can be catastrophic to a person’s health and well-being. Further, because of the way in which prescription medications are manufactured and distributed, when one individual has been affected, there is a high likelihood that many others have as well.

Because of this, the judicial system has created a system whereby people seeking liability of a party based upon the same basic set of circumstances can have their cases handled a bit more easily and efficiently through the pre-trial process. Section 74.161 of the Texas Government Code provides for the creation of a judicial panel to oversee what is called “Multi-District Litigation,” or MDL. How these panels work is dictated by Rule 13 of the Texas Rules of Judicial Administration.

The basic concept behind MDL is that certain products liability cases, such as those involving defective drugs, often contain very similar fact patterns and circumstances even though each plaintiff may be suing in a different part of the state. When it can be shown that there are common questions of fact, that it would be a convenience for parties and witnesses to have the cases consolidated and that the interests of judicial efficiency and economy will be served, the panel will consolidate and transfer the cases to a certain district’s “pre-trial court.” This can be done at the panel’s own authority, at the request of a trial judge or on the motion of a party.

The MDL will only handle pre-trial matters, such as discovery and motions common to the facts of the cases so consolidated. The individual trial courts do not lose jurisdiction over the consolidated cases. Those who have been injured by a defective pharmaceutical product should understand their legal rights and be aware of the possibilities afforded by the judicial system.

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