Our lawyers receive calls every day asking about what a class action lawsuit means to them.
The Medtronic class action will be in the form of a multidistrict litigation (“MDL”). Pursuant to 1968 law, an MDL is a procedural mechanism that will pull all of the Medtronic lead recall cases in federal court together in a single action for consolidated pretrial handling. Under this law, a seven judge-panel appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has the authority to consolidate the Medtronic cases and select a MDL judge to oversee the litigation.
In an MDL, there is not a single trial that resolves all of the cases. An MDL only pertains to pretrial discovery matters. After discovery has been conducted of the key witnesses and all of the relevant documents have been obtained, the Medtronic cases will be returned to the original court in which they were filed.
This actually makes sense both for Medtronic and for plaintiffs because it does not makes sense for anyone to have to depose the same witnesses over and over again if the same witnesses are people of interest in all of the these cases. For example, the person who made the decision to put the leads on the market is going to be a relevant witness in every single case. In the MDL, they will conduct what is called a trial deposition (or de bene esse deposition), in which the witness gives testimony by videotape which has the same effect as if the witness were to testify live a trial.
If you are a plaintiff who would prefer to settle your case as opposed to going to trial, the MDL is a good vehicle to settlement. While an MDL is technically just for pretrial proceedings, functionally, if history is any guide, it will be the end point for the overwhelming majority of Medtronic cases. Big companies are driven by stock prices and financial reporting requirements. Investors typically want to limit a risk, which means resolving large cases through settlement. So an MDL class action creates an incentive to the companies to access the risk and what the value of the cases really is which usually helps induce a reasonable settlement.