Monday, August 19, 2013

Supreme Court Petition in Engle Progeny Case

Am Law Litigation Daily has an article on the tobacco companies' filing another certiorari petition in an Engle progeny case: Tobacco Companies Seek Supreme Court Cert in Engle Case, by Ross Todd.  Here's their petition for a writ of certiorari.  The appellate team includes Greg Katsas (Jones Day), Paul Clement (Bancroft), and Miguel Estrada (Gibson Dunn).

I've previously addressed issue preclusion, verdict variability, and problems with the Engle case in my article, Jackpot Justice: Verdict Variability and the Mass Tort Class Action, 80 Temp. L. Rev. 1013 (2007).

BGS

August 19, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Procedure, Products Liability, Tobacco | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Richard Zitrin on Regulating the Behavior of Lawyers in Mass Individual Representations

Professor Richard Zitrin (UC Hastings) has posted to SSRN his article, Regulating the Behavior of Lawyers in Mass Individual Representations: A Call for Reform, 3 St. Mary’s J. on Legal Malpractice & Ethics 86 (2013).  Here's the abstract:

Cases in which lawyers represent large numbers of individual plaintiffs are increasingly common. While these cases have some of the indicia of class actions, they are not class actions, usually because there are no common damages, but rather individual representations on a mass scale. Current ethics rules do not provide adequate guidance for even the most ethical lawyers. The absence of sufficiently flexible, practical ethical rules has become an open invitation for less-ethical attorneys to abuse, often severely, the mass-representation framework by abrogating individual clients’ rights. These problems can be abated if the ethics rules offered better practical solutions to the mass-representation problem. It is necessary to reform the current rules, but only with a solution that is both practical and attainable, and with changes that maintain the core ethical and fiduciary duties owed by lawyers to their individual clients, including loyalty, candor, and independent professional advice.

BGS

August 19, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Ethics, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 22, 2013

IAPL Moscow Conference Papers

The presentatons from the 2012 Moscow meeting of the International Association of Procedural Law have been posted to SSRN as a combined UC Irvine Law research paper entitled, Civil Procedure in Cross-Cultural Dialogue: Eurasia Context.  Among the many professors whose papers are gathered are Carrie Menkel-Meadow (UC Irvine), Richard Marcus (UC Hastings), Stefaan Voet (Univ. of Ghent), and Jasminka Kalajdzic (Univ. of WIndsor).  Here's the abstract:

The Idea of the book is to discuss the evolution of civil procedure in different societies, not only in the well-known civil or common law systems, but also in different countries of Eurasia, Asia, etc. Civil procedure in Europe and North America is a subject of enormous scientific and practical importance. We know a lot about these systems. But we do not know enough about civil procedure in the rest of the world. How does it work and what are the main principles? Culture is one of the main factors that makes civil procedure of these countries different. Therefore it is necessary to discuss the main links between different systems of civil procedure. The discussion was held on the basis of National reports from 24 countries.

BGS

July 22, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Foreign, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Khoury, Menard & Redko on the Role of Canadian Private Law in the Control of Risks Associated with Tobacco Smoking

Professors Lara Khoury and Marie-Eve Couture-Ménard (McGill), and Olga Redko (LL.B./B.C.L. Candidate, McGill) have posted to SSRN their article, The Role of Private Law in the Control of Risks Associated with Tobacco Smoking: The Canadian Experience, 39 Am. J. L., Med. & Ethics 442 (2013).  Here's the abstract:

Can private law litigation serve as a tool for advancing public health objectives? With this contentious and oft-asked question in mind, this text tackles Canada’s recent tobacco litigation. This Article first presents critical commentary regarding various lawsuits waged against Canadian cigarette manufacturers by citizens acting as individuals or as parties to class action lawsuits. We then turn to analyze how Canada’s provincial governments rely on targeted legislation to facilitate private law recourses for recouping the healthcare costs of treating tobacco-related diseases. The authors address challenges to the constitutionality of this type of legislation, as well as attempts by manufacturers to transfer responsibility to the federal government.

BGS

July 21, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure, Products Liability, Tobacco | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Distributive Justice in Action

There is a very nice, lauditory article on Kenneth Feinberg in the New York Times today: "One Man Disperses Charity After Tragedy in Boston."

The interesting thing about the compensation funds Feinberg is often asked to run are the way they bring distributive justice issues that are always imbedded in tort litigation to the surface.  How should people with similar injuries be compensated when they have different life circumstances?  Should weathier people receive less (or more) compensation than poorer people with similar injuries?  Should emotional harm be compensated?  What about fraud, the flip side of desert?  These questions arise in ordinary tort litigation and in mass tort litigation as well.  What any fund, whether created by an insurance company, a mass tort litigation, a charitable foundation or the government can do that ordinary decentralized tort litigation cannot is treat similarly situated people equally, which is the promise of the common law maxim that like cases ought to be treated alike and the foundation of the rule of law.  But that raises difficult questions about what it means to treat people alike who are different from one another but suffered similar injuries. 

Perhaps because these funds aren't governed by legal prinicples but instead by charitable ones, the issues of distributive justice, luck and social inequality are easier to discuss.  There is no legally imposed baseline of how compensation is to be awarded, so this opens up our thinking about how things ought to be.  These are the fundamental philosophical issues of tort law in the United States, and decision-maker's philosophy affects how the law and non-legal funds (like the One Fund Boston) operate in real life.  Should these funds track the tort system?  The 9/11 fund kind of did (not completely), and in his book "What is Life Worth?" Feinberg notes that he would have preferred to pay everyone a flat amount rather than distinguish based on earning capacity and other factors that end up reflecting societal inequalities.  The tort system presently often reinforces existing social inequalities in compensation, should it?  Similarly, as PTSD on the military side has become more recognized as disabling, will we reach a point where emotional trauma receives more recognition on the civil justice side as well? 

Also notable, the article points out that the number of funds has accelerated in the 21st century.  According to the article, between 1984 and 2010 Feinberg worked on five such funds, since then he's worked on five more.  

ADL

May 15, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Current Affairs, Informal Aggregation, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Distributive Justice in Action

There is a very nice, lauditory article on Kenneth Feinberg in the New York Times today: "One Man Disperses Charity After Tragedy in Boston."

The interesting thing about the compensation funds Feinberg is often asked to run are the way they bring distributive justice issues that are always imbedded in tort litigation to the surface.  How should people with similar injuries be compensated when they have different life circumstances?  Should weathier people receive less (or more) compensation than poorer people with similar injuries?  Should emotional harm be compensated?  What about fraud, the flip side of desert?  These questions arise in ordinary tort litigation and in mass tort litigation as well.  What any fund, whether created by an insurance company, a mass tort litigation, a charitable foundation or the government can do that ordinary decentralized tort litigation cannot is treat similarly situated people equally, which is the promise of the common law maxim that like cases ought to be treated alike and the foundation of the rule of law.  But that raises difficult questions about what it means to treat people alike who are different from one another but suffered similar injuries. 

Perhaps because these funds aren't governed by legal prinicples but instead by charitable ones, the issues of distributive justice, luck and social inequality are easier to discuss.  There is no legally imposed baseline of how compensation is to be awarded, so this opens up our thinking about how things ought to be.  These are the fundamental philosophical issues of tort law in the United States, and decision-maker's philosophy affects how the law and non-legal funds (like the One Fund Boston) operate in real life.  Should these funds track the tort system?  The 9/11 fund kind of did (not completely), and in his book "What is Life Worth?" Feinberg notes that he would have preferred to pay everyone a flat amount rather than distinguish based on earning capacity and other factors that end up reflecting societal inequalities.  The tort system presently often reinforces existing social inequalities in compensation, should it?  Similarly, as PTSD on the military side has become more recognized as disabling, will we reach a point where emotional trauma receives more recognition on the civil justice side as well? 

Also notable, the article points out that the number of funds has accelerated in the 21st century.  According to the article, between 1984 and 2010 Feinberg worked on five such funds, since then he's worked on five more.  

ADL

May 15, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Current Affairs, Informal Aggregation, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Adequately Representing Groups

As we as scholars and practictioners begin to explore class action alternatives, one problem continues to arise: when to preclude subsesequent litigation.  Of course, this problem arose early on in the class action's history, most notably with (b)(2) civil rights cases where some class members disagreed fundamentally over the remedy requested.  But the problem has persisted in multidistrict litigation and, perhaps most notably, in parens patriae actions. I explore this problem and propose a solution in my latest piece, titled Adequately Representing Groups.  Here's the SSRN abstract, which gives a brief summary of the proposed solution:

Adequate representation and preclusion depend on whether the courts treat a litigant as part of a group experiencing an aggregate harm or as a distinct person suffering individual injuries. And though a vast literature about adequate representation exists in the class-action context, it thins dramatically when contemplating other forms of group litigation, such as parens patriae actions and multidistrict litigation. As class actions have gradually fallen into disfavor and attorneys and commentators seek alternative means for resolving group harms, the relative clarity of Rule 23 wanes. How should courts evaluate adequate representation in parens patriae actions and in multidistrict litigation? The answer to this question matters immensely since adequate representation is critical to precluding relitigation and achieving finality.

This Article suggests that courts should differentiate between inadequate representation claims based on the underlying right at stake. When the underlying right arises from an aggregate harm — a harm that affects a group of people equally and collectively — and demands an indivisible remedy, courts should tolerate greater conflicts among group members when evaluating a subsequent claim of inadequate representation. Because the harm is aggregate and the remedy is indivisible (typically declaratory or injunctive relief), if one group member receives the remedy, then they all receive the remedy. The litigation operates to group members’ benefit or detriment equally, so if one group member is inadequately represented, they are all inadequately represented. Consequently, a subsequent litigant can successfully avoid preclusion only where the lawyers or the named representatives acted contrary to the group’s best interests or attempted to represent an overinclusive, noncohesive group where some members required unique relief that the representative had no selfish reason to pursue.

Conversely, when plaintiffs suffer individual injuries at the same defendant’s hands and unite their claims for economic or efficiency reasons, that aggregation does not convert their individual injuries into an aggregate harm. When counsel fails to fairly represent her client in vindicating that harm, inadequate representation is an individual injury. In multidistrict litigation and Rule 23(b)(3) class actions, which typically include individuals litigating their individual harms together for systematic and litigant efficiency, courts should look for “structural conflicts” between the claimants themselves as well as between the representatives and the claimants. This means that both initially and on a collateral attack, courts should accept fewer conflicts than in cases involving aggregate rights. Accordingly, judges should assess whether there are reasons the lawyers “might skew systematically the conduct of the litigation so as to favor some claimants over others on grounds aside from reasoned evaluation of their respective claims or to disfavor claimants generally vis-à-vis the lawyers themselves.”

ECB

April 17, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Zachary Savage on Implementing Issue Preclusion in Mass Tort Litigation Through Bellwether Trials

Zachary Savage (J.D. Candidate, NYU), has posted to SSRN his student note, Scaling Up: Implementing Issue Preclusion in Mass Tort Litigation Through Bellwether Trials, N.Y.U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2013).  Here's the abstract:

The civil litigation system aims to resolve disputes in an efficient, centralized, and final manner. In the context of mass tort litigation, one technique courts often use to achieve these goals is what I call “scaling up”: holding individual trials, and then applying results from these trials to similarly situated individuals. Scaling up, however, presents two difficulties. First, the technique risks compromising defendants’ Due Process rights by creating impermissible settlement pressure. Second, scaling up requires the initial court to structure the litigation so that it may serve as a template for follow-on proceedings; where this is not done, attempting to graft the results of one proceeding onto the remaining group of similarly situated individuals may simply lead to more protracted litigation.

Yet these difficulties are not inherent to the technique; in fact, courts can scale up in a way that avoids these problems. In order to mitigate the Due Process problem, courts should not apply the results of individual trials to subsequent trials involving similar claims until a substantial number of trials have been completed, and until it has become clear that any verdicts unfavorable to defendants are not flukes or outliers. And to ensure that scaling up does not simply lead to more protracted litigation, the initial trials should be structured so as to maximize the likelihood that individuals in follow-on litigation can invoke the findings under the issue preclusion doctrine of Parklane Hosiery v. Shore. The American Law Institute has made a proposal with these considerations in mind with respect to issue classes. This Note argues that a similar approach should be taken in the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) process, where most mass tort litigation occurs today. This approach would be particularly useful if applied to one device that is being used with increasing frequency in the MDL process: the bellwether trial.

BGS

March 29, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Widener Law Symposium: Perspectives on Mass Tort Litigation

Widener University School of Law and the Widener Law Journal are presenting a day-long symposium, Perspectives on Mass Tort Litigation, on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  The Honorable Eduardo Robreno of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will present a luncheon address, Federal Asbestos Litigation: Black Hole or New Paradigm?  Other participants include Hon. Thurbert Baker (McKenna Long); Mark Behrens (Shook Hardy); John Beisner (Skadden); S. Todd Brown (SUNY Buffalo); Scott Cooper (Schmidt Kramer); Amaris Elliot-Engel (Legal Intelligencer); Michael Green (Wake Forest); Deborah Hensler (Stanford); Mary Kate Kearney (Widener); Randy Lee (Widener); Bruce Mattock (Goldberg Persky); Tobias Millrood (Pogust Braslow); Linda Mullenix (Texas); Christopher Robinette (Widener); Susan Raeker-Jordan (Widener); Sheila Scheuerman (Charleston); Victor Schwartz (Shook Hardy); William Shelley (Gordon & Rees); Aaron Twerski (Brooklyn); Nicholas Vari (K&L Gates); and Nancy Winkler (Eisenberg Rothweiler).  I will also participate via Skype videoconference.  Here's the brochure:  Download Widener 2013 MTL Symposiu Brochure

BGS

March 20, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Asbestos, Conferences, Ethics, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Kelsey Larson and Carlos Lazatin on Crafting a Defense in Food-Labeling Class Actions

Corporate Counsel has a short piece, Crafting a Defense in Food-Labeling Class Actions, by O'Melveny's Kelsey Larson and Carlos Lazatin.

BGS

January 21, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, FDA, Food and Drink, Procedure, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Skadden Analysis of 2013 Potential Developments in Global Litigation

Skadden has issued a useful analysis of upcoming cases to watch and potential developments for 2013 in class actions and product liability.  The analysis includes contributes by Skadden's John Beisner, J. Russell Jackson, and Jessica Miller.

BGS

January 21, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Preemption, Procedure, Products Liability, Punitive Damages | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Engle's Progeny

On November 26 the Supreme Court denied cert in RJ Reynold Tobacco Co. v. Clay, an appeal from a Florida state court decision to give the Engle court ruling preclusion effect.

Engle, recall, is the tobacco issue class action certified and upheld by the Florida Supreme Court. Does the denial of cert pave the way for issues class actions to flourish (at least for the moment) or is this just not the right vehicle? 

See Scotusblog for a summary and links.  ADL

November 30, 2012 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Procedure, Tobacco | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

U.S. Chamber of Commerce 13th Annual Legal Reform Summit

The conference will take place on October 24, 2012 in Washington, D.C., and includes panels on third-party litigation financing and global litigation (including the Chevron Ecuadoran litigation and the adoption of class actions in other countries).

BGS

October 20, 2012 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Conferences, Environmental Torts, Foreign, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Conference on Cost-Driven Litigation Paradigms -- When is a Case Too Big to Litigate?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Three Class-Action Cases to be Argued Before SCOTUS

Daniel Fisher at Forbes has an interesting article previewing three class-action cases being argued before the Supreme Court of the United States this fall: Class-Action Lawyers Face Triple Threat At Supreme Court.

BGS

October 12, 2012 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mark Behrens on Philadelphia Tort Litigation

Mark Behrens (Shook, Hardy) has published Philadelphia Tort Litigation: Forum Shopping and Venue Reform as a Federalist Society white paper.

BGS

October 7, 2012 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Current Issues in Global Tort Litigation

Those interested in a quick overview of many of the recent issues in global tort litigation might be interested in the following article from the Legal Intelligencer Is Growth of Foreign Class, Mass Actions Changing Products Law?, by Amaris Elliot-Engel (registration required).  I was happy to be quoted in the article along with leading practitioners, but even happier that my current Global Tort Litigation seminar course was mentioned. 

BGS

October 5, 2012 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Foreign, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Disaggregating

I posted a new and likely controversial piece titled "Disaggregating" on SSRN today.  As the abstract explains, the basic idea is that if courts can no longer resolve mass torts cases through judicial means, like approving a class action settlement, and must resort to encouraging private settlement, then perhaps we should rethink what we hope to accomplish by centralizing these cases. 

Rethinking centralization really requires that we consider two questions: First, what level of commonality justifies aggregating mass torts, shorn of Rule 23’s procedural protections? And, second, should the federal judicial system continue to centralize claims with nominal commonality when judges typically cannot resolve those claims collectively absent a private settlement?

This Article’s title suggests one answer: if minimal commonality continues to justify collective litigation, then the system should aggregate claims to resolve common concerns and then, as state laws or individual differences come to the forefront, disaggregate into smaller, cohesive groups whose members’ claims could be resolved collectively through public, judicial means, such as trials or dispositive motions. Disaggregating into smaller, more cohesive units could revive the use of issues classes, particularly when the class definition is correspondingly narrow.

To be clear, I do not claim that this is the only way to legitimately resolve mass torts.  But my previous work has prompted me to think more directly about the use of exit.  Exit can perform a number of functions.  It can signal dissatisfaction with substantive or procedural fairness.  It allows plaintiffs with fundamental differences over which litigation ends to pursue and how to pursue them to leave the group when significant conflicts arise.  It thus preserves plaintiffs' choice of forum and may also safeguard defendants' right to assert individual affirmative defenses.

Exit performs other functions, too, such as preserving substantive law and furthering democratic ideals.  For example, while private ordering through settlement might follow a handful of bellwether trials, jurors are geographically concentrated in the transferee forum.  That allows no public participation from other affected communities nationwide, whereas holding trials in plaintiffs’ original fora would further democratic participation ideals.  Jury trials are, after all, meant to be a communal enterprise and, as the American Tort Reform Association likes to point out, each community may approach the adjudicative and deliberative process differently.  In that way, disaggregating might also help maintain fidelity to state substantive law.

As always, I'd be interested in your comments - eburch at uga.edu

 

ECB

 

August 28, 2012 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Informal Aggregation, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

D. Theodore Rave on Governing the Anticommons in Aggregate Litigation

D. Theodore Rave (Furman Fellow, NYU) has posted his article, Governing the Anticommons in Aggregate Litigation, to SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article argues that there is an unrecognized “anticommons” problem in aggregate litigation. An anticommons occurs when too many owners’ consent is needed to use a resource at its most efficient scale. When many plaintiffs have similar claims against a common defendant, those claims are often worth more if they can be packaged up and sold to the defendant (i.e., settled) as a single unit — that is, the defendant may be willing to pay a premium for total peace. But because the rights to control those claims are dispersed among the individual plaintiffs, transaction costs and strategic holdouts can make aggregation difficult, particularly in cases where class actions are impractical. Recently the American Law Institute has proposed to modify long-standing legal ethics rules governing non-class aggregate settlements to allow plaintiffs to agree in advance to be bound by a supermajority vote on a group settlement offer. By shifting from individual control over settlement decisions to collective decision making, the ALI proposal may offer a way out of the anticommons and allow the group to capture the peace premium. Critics, however, say that allowing plaintiffs to surrender their autonomy will leave them vulnerable to exploitation by the majority and by their lawyers. Viewed through the lens of the anticommons, these concerns are manageable. Similar anticommons problems arise in many areas of law, ranging from eminent domain to oil and gas to sovereign debt. But instead of slavishly preserving the autonomy of individual rights-holders, these areas of law have developed strategies for aggregating rights when doing so will result in joint gains. Drawing from these other contexts, this article argues that the legitimacy of compelling individuals to participate in a value-generating aggregation depends on the presence of governance procedures capable of protecting the interests of the individuals within the collective and ensuring that the gains from cooperation are fairly allocated. Governance is thus the key to legitimizing attempts to defeat the anticommons in mass litigation through aggregation, whether by regulatory means, such as the class action, or contractual precommitment, as in the ALI proposal.

BGS

August 16, 2012 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Ethics, Informal Aggregation, Lawyers, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure, Settlement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 9, 2012

NPR Interview with Ken Feinberg About His New Book