June 4, 2007
Anatomy of a Mass Tort
Jim Beck and Mark Herrmann at the Drug and Device Law Blog have a wonderful post called Anatomy of a Mass Tort. It's among the best short descriptions of mass tort litigation I've seen. They describe the now-predictable life cycle of a mass tort: triggering event, client-gathering, class suits, individual suits, peripheral litigation, MDL, statewide centralization, wholesale defenses, eve-of-limitations filings, choice of law battles, trial themes, and settlement. What I like best is that they tell the story with just the right level of cynicism. They assume that both sides respond to incentives, but they make no assumption concerning whether the underlying claims are either meritorious or non-meritorious. Indeed, one of the most interesting (and troubling) things about mass tort litigation -- this, I think, is the main point of their post -- is the extent to which the story line looks the same regardless of whether the litigation involves a dangerous product and liability-worthy conduct. I'm not saying (and neither are they) that results in mass tort litigation bear no relation to the truth. Rather, they're making a subtler and more important point -- that once a trigger occurs, mass tort litigation takes on a life of its own.
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