JPML Rejects Calls to Create Video Game Addiction Lawsuit MDL

Video game addiction lawsuits target too many different games and developers to justify centralizing all claims before one federal judge, MDL Panel finds.

Although a growing number of video game addiction lawsuits are being filed by families throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has determined that there are too many different games and developers involved in the claims to benefit from consolidation as part of one MDL (Multidistrict Litigation).

There are currently at least 15 different lawsuits pending in ten different federal districts, each raising similar claims that video game developers and publishing houses intentionally designed their products to cause addiction and compulsive behaviors among children, particularly with “live service” games like Call of Duty, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto 5, Roblox and others.

Plaintiffs claim the manufacturers sold games that illegally monitor children’s activity online and use algorithms based off their behavior to keep playing longer. They then attempt to sell them game improvements, or “cosmetic” items for small, seemingly digestible amounts. However, more than 25 different companies have been named in the complaints, and most of the lawsuits involve children who used different combinations of programs before developing an addiction to the video games.

Similar Social Media Addiction Lawsuits

The lawsuits against video game developers raise allegations that are similar to those currently being pursued in a number of social media addiction lawsuits brought against Meta, Google, TikTok and other companies, which have been centralized as part of one single MDL, to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the claims, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and serve the convenience of common parties, witnesses and the judicial system.

The social media lawsuits also claim that the platforms are intentionally designed to manipulate and maximize user time and engagement, as well as the type of content that users see. However, that litigation involves only about a half-dozen different social media companies, indicating that the companies ignored clear evidence about the harmful consequences of their platforms, particularly for young girls, increasing the risk of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and psychological damage, which has led to attempted or actual suicides and severe mental health injuries for a generation of Americans.

Social Media Addiction Lawsuit

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Given the similar allegations raised in lawsuits against video game manufacturers, the U.S. JPML was asked to establish a video game addiction lawsuit MDL in March 2024, with a group of plaintiffs calling for the claims to be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri or the Eastern District of Arkansas.

All of the different video game manufacturers implicated in the litigation filed a response opposing the motion, and oral arguments were heard at a hearing on May 30, 2024, at the Orrin G. Hatch U.S. Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah.

JPML Denys Video Game Addiction MDL Motion

In an order (PDF) issued on June 5, the U.S. JPML rejected the motion to transfer, determining that all video game addition lawsuits should proceed as individual claims at this time, without MDL centralization.

Although the MDL panel typically grants consolidation where there are a large number of product liability lawsuits seeking damages for the same or similar conduct, the federal judges considering the motion determined that the video game addiction litigation will not benefit from centralization, since the cases currently involves too many different companies, developers and games, each utilizing different designs and programming.

“Plaintiffs attempt to overcome the differences among the products and defendants by asserting that an alleged common conspiracy supports centralization – specifically, that defendants ‘conspired or acted in concert to addict a generation of young video game players.’ Indeed, all of the complaints bring a claim for civil conspiracy,” said Judge Karen K. Caldwell, chair of the U.S. JPML. “But in each action, the alleged conspiracy claim is pled against a different group of defendants and involves different combinations of gaming products. Given the different products and defendants involved in each alleged conspiracy, centralization is not warranted.”

The JPML suggested that the lawyers involved in the litigation informally coordinate between the claims, noting that the most frequently named defendants already share national coordinating counsel. In addition, the panel pointed out that the claims could still be consolidated in their individual districts or regions, as has already occurred with claims filed in the Eastern District of Arkansas.

The decision means that, outside of those alternatives, each individual video game addiction lawsuit will continue to move forward separately in the district where it was originally filed.

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