Friday, June 19, 2009

Sherman on Aggregate Litigation

Esherman Edward Sherman (Tulane) one of the most experienced scholars in the area of complex litigation has posted "An MDL Model for Resolving Complex Litigation if a Class Action Is Not Possible" on SSRN.  The piece was published in Tulane Law Review (2008).  Here is the abstract:

This article reviews the origins and development of multidistrict litigation before proceeding to examine its ability to take the place of class actions for the resolution of complex litigation. After noting that class actions are increasingly unavailable, particularly in pharmaceutical products liability cases, the article explores the management of the In re Vioxx Products Liability Litigation MDL. The article concludes that the MDL model can allow for the efficient resolution of complex litigation where a class action is not available, but creative management by the MDL transferee court is crucial. Highlighted are the use bellwether trials and the global settlement across jurisdictional lines, crafted by counsel in both federal and state courts and blessed and overseen in its execution by the MDL court. Professional ethics issues regarding requiring opting-in plaintiffs' attorneys to urge their clients to participate in the global settlement and, if not, to withdraw, are discussed. The growing use of multidistrict transfers of discreet litigation to a single court in various states is examined. Finally, the article calls for Congress to enhance the powers of MDL courts and to learn from the experience of the states and district courts that have experimented, often on an ad hoc basis, with the MDL model.


June 19, 2009 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Geistfeld on Products Liability and Consumer Choice

Giestfeld Mark Geistfeld (NYU) has posted an article entitled "The Value of Consumer Choice in Products Liability" on SSRN.  I always learn from his work.  Here is the abstract:

Tort law has always recognized the principle expressed by the Latin maxim volenti non fit injuria, or "a person is not wronged by that to which he or she consents." The absence of consent is part of the prima facie case for tort liability, distinguishing tortious behavior from socially acceptable behavior. Nevertheless, the value of consumer choice in strict products liability is surprisingly unclear. Consider the liability rules governing defects of product design or warning, the most important categories of product defect. According to the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Products Liability, "[t]he emphasis is on creating incentives for manufacturers to achieve optimal levels of safety in designing and marketing products." The optimal level of safety has no apparent connection to the amount of safety that would be chosen by consumers, because "consumer expectations do not play a determinative role in determining defectiveness." Whether a product is defective in these cases instead depends on "[a] broad range of factors," including "the nature and strength of consumer expectations regarding the product." In some cases, consumer expectations can be "ultimately determinative" of the liability question, but it is not apparent why the liability rules exclusively rely on consumer choice in only these cases but not others. Consumer choice could also limit liability under the assumed-risk rule, and yet assumption of risk is not an independent defense in products liability, deepening the impression that this body of tort law undervalues individual choice.

The impression is misleading. Strict products liability appropriately values consumer choice. The value of consumer choice, however, is obscured by the way in which the Restatement (Third) has de-emphasized the importance of consumer expectations. Properly understood, the value of consumer choice not only justifies the liability rules in the Restatement (Third), it also provides the key to understanding the important limitations of strict products liability, including those based on assumed risks.


June 19, 2009 in Mass Tort Scholarship, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)