Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Conventional wisdom says that pro se plaintiffs almost invariably fare worse than represented plaintiffs. However, there exists in federal court a procedural regime under which pro se plaintiffs effectively receive attorneys and therefore experience success rates similar to their represented peers: multidistrict litigation. Multidistrict litigation is a procedure for consolidating multiple federal civil cases sharing common questions of fact into a single proceeding in one federal district court for coordinated pre-trial proceedings and discovery. This paper takes an empirical look at all federal civil cases terminating between 2006 and 2008 to determine what effect multidistrict litigation has on case outcome and finds that for all kinds of plaintiffs, consolidation into an MDL proceeding dramatically increased the chance that their case would settle. While pro se plaintiffs rarely reach settlement when they proceed on their own, in multidistrict litigation, there is no statistically significant difference in the settlement rates of pro se and represented plaintiffs. After exploring possible explanations for why multidistrict litigation equalizes the results of pro se and represented plaintiffs, this paper turns to those plaintiffs who do have attorneys but are unlikely to have attorneys of the same quality as their adversaries, consumers, and argues that they too are likely to benefit from the multidistrict litigation process for many of the same reasons as pro se plaintiffs. Finally, this paper suggests ways to improve the multidistrict litigation process in light of these findings.


Multidistrict Litigation, Pro Se Plaintiffs, Consumers

Publication Citation

D'Onfro, Danielle Frances, Multidistrict Litigation: A Surprising Bonus for Pro Se Plaintiffs and a Possible Boon for Consumers (March 3, 2010).