Origin and Purposes
The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, known informally as the MDL Panel, was created by an Act of Congress in 1968 – 28 U.S.C. §1407.
The job of the Panel is to (1) determine whether civil actions pending in different federal districts involve one or more common questions of fact such that the actions should be transferred to one federal district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings; and (2) select the judge or judges and court assigned to conduct such proceedings.
The purposes of this transfer or “centralization” process are to avoid duplication of discovery, to prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and to conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary. Transferred actions not terminated in the transferee district are remanded to their originating transferor districts by the Panel at or before the conclusion of centralized pretrial proceedings.
Since its inception, the Panel has received more than 3,000 motions for centralization, resulting in the creation of more than 1,800 litigation dockets (MDLs) involving over 1.1 million cases. These dockets encompass litigation categories as diverse as airplane crashes; other single accidents, such as train wrecks or hotel fires; mass torts, such as those involving asbestos, drugs and other products liability cases; marketing and sales practices; patent validity and infringement; antitrust price fixing; data security breaches, securities fraud; and employment practices.
Membership of the MDL Panel
The MDL Panel consists of seven sitting federal judges, who are appointed to serve on the Panel by the Chief Justice of the United States. The multidistrict litigation statute provides that no two Panel members may be from the same federal judicial circuit. The current Chair of the Panel is Judge Karen K. Caldwell, who sits in the Eastern District of Kentucky. The remaining Panel members, in order of appointment to Panel are Nathaniel M. Gorton (D. Massachusetts), Matthew F. Kennelly (N.D. Illinois), David C. Norton (D. South Carolina), Roger Benitez (S.D. California), Dale A. Kimball (D. Utah), and Madeline Cox Arleo (D. New Jersey).