Friday, May 8, 2015

Class Actions Ten Years after the Enactment of CAFA

On February 27, 2015, the Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, held a hearing on the state of class actions post-CAFA.  The witnesses'  lack of ideological diversity (with Professor Moore as a single exception) is extremely troubling.  The committee heard testimony from: Andrew Pincus (Partner, Mayer Brown, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform), John Parker Sweeney (President, DRI - the Voice of the Defense Bar), Jessica D. Miller (Partner, Skadden Arps), and Professor Patricia Moore (St. Thomas Univ. School of Law).  

A video of the testimony is available here, and Professor Moore has posted her written remarks on SSRN.

May 8, 2015 in Class Actions, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Class Actions at the ALI Annual Meeting

In conjunction with its annual meeting each year, the American Law Institute hosts a CLE the day before the meeting begins.  This year, there are two programs that may be of interest to readers on Sunday, May 17, 2015:

1) Changes for Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23?  An Open Forum with the Rule 23 Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules; and

2) Ethical Issues in Class Actions and Non-Class Aggregate Litigation.

The panels run from 1:30-3:00 p.m. and 4:00-6:00 p.m., respectively and are located in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C.  I understand that panel members on the second panel will include Bob Klnonoff, Elizabeth Cabraser, Judge Diane Wood, Judge Lee Rosenthal, Sam Issacharoff, John Beisner, and myself among others.  Hope to see you there!

April 30, 2015 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Constructing Issue Class Actions

There's been a lot of chatter over the past few years about the greater use of issue classes.  The Rule 23 Subcommittee in its recent report (p. 41) indicated that issue classes top its agenda for possible reform and there's been a greater willingness to rely on Rule 23(c)(4) among the circuit courts over the last few years.  Much of the scholarship on issue classes thus far, however, has focused on how to use issue classes in conjunction with Rule 23(b)(3)'s predominance requirement.  Professor Laura Hines (Kansas) has, for instance, written a series of articles on the topic and there have been several debates in symposium pages, such as DePaul's 2013 symposium.  

Whatever side of the debate one adheres to on the to-be-or-not-to-be question, the courts are embracing issue classes.  Thus, there remains much work to be done on discerning which issues should qualify for certification, how to think about Seventh Amendment Reexamination Clause questions, and how to compensate plaintiffs' attorneys who initiate issue classes.

I've recently written a paper on issue classes that takes some steps toward fleshing out these problems.  The paper is long since it's meant to be a one-stop shop for judges and attorneys on the subject, but here are the critical points worth underscoring:

First, one of the main difficulties of our system is that the focus in massive lawsuits has shifted to the ways in which the plaintiffs are dissimilarly situated, even when the defendant's conduct is uniform.  Take the GM ignition switch debacle or the Toyota acceleration cases, for example.  Corporate actions are nonindividuated; it doesn't make sense to litigate what GM or Toyota did in 40,000 different cases.  (Draft pp 5-8) But defendants have successfully shifted the procedural focus to how their behavior affected claimants, which tends to defeat class certification because common questions do not predominate over individual ones.  The issue class has the potential to recapture what is common to the plaintiffs: defendant's conduct--at least so long as that conduct is nonindividuated.  One can capture this notion by divvying up the legal elements in any claim or defense as "conduct components," which concern the defendant's conduct, or "eligibility components," which concern a plaintiff's eligibility for relief.  (Draft pp 15-29)

Second, by embracing the standard suggested by the ALI's Principles of the Law of Aggregate Litigation, courts can ease the supposed tension (to the extent any remains) between Rule 23(c)(4) and Rule 23(b)(3).  (Draft pp 31-32)  Courts should certify issue classes where resolving the issue would "materially advance the resolution of multiple civil claims by addressing the core of the dispute in a manner superior to other realistic procedural alternatives, so as to generate significant judicial efficiencies." (Principles, 2.02(a)(1), 2.02 cmt. a, 2.08, 2.08 cmt. a)  Predominance is embedded in the "materially advance" language and superiority is included as a condition that certifying the issue would be "superior to other realistic alternatives" such that it "generate[s] significant judicial efficiencies."  Moreover, the courts themselves seem to have reached a general consensus on this matter, with even the Fifth Circuit embracing issue classes in In re Deepwater Horizon, 739 F.3d 790, 804 (5th Cir. 2014).  (Draft p. 30)

Third, courts must figure out a way to compensate (and thus incentivize) plaintiffs' attorneys.  This is perhaps the trickiest part because of both the lack precedent and doctrinal hurdles such as Lexecon.  Lexecon presents a special challenge in multidistrict litigation cases where issue classes might prove most useful.  Nevertheless, one need not invent a theory out of whole cloth.  Charging liens and the common-benefit doctrine provide sound analogies for fashioning a coherent path forward.  (Draft pp 42-50)

Finally, there are some hurdles to making issue classes stick, such as preclusion doctrines, adequate representation, and the Seventh Amendment Reexamination Clause.  Thus, the paper concludes by suggesting solutions to these problems and arguing that preclusion can provide a way to coordinate dispersed public and private regulators.

As always, comments are welcome (eburch at uga.edu).

April 30, 2015 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Current Affairs, Lawyers, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure, Products Liability, Tobacco, Vioxx | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Special Report on Issue Classes

Perry Cooper, of the BNA Class Action Litigation Report, published a special report yesterday titled "Issue Classes Swell in Consumer Suits: Are Potential Rewards Worth the Risk?"  A subscription is required to read the full article, but it does a nice job of portraying different points of view on the topic - John Beisner and Jessica Miller (Sadden Arps) for the defense, Gary Mason (Whitfield Bryson & Mason) for the plaintiffs, and some of my own views as an academic.

Issue classes have been on my mind for awhile now as well as the minds of many others--the Rule 23 Subcommittee has indicated that the topic tops their list for potential rule changes.  As such, I've been working on an article titled "Constructing Issue Classes."  I'm still tweaking it, so it's not available for public consumption yet, but for those interested in the topic, here's the gist of it:

Issue classes under Rule 23(c)(4) have the potential to adjudicate collectively what actually unites plaintiffs: defendant's uniform conduct.  One can separate the elements of any cause of action into "conduct elements" that relate to the defendant's conduct--what the defendant knew, when the defendant knew it, etc.--or "eligibility elements" that relate to the plaintiff's eligibility for relief--specific causation, damages, etc.  When defendant's conduct toward the plaintiffs is uniform, as it was for example in the smelly washing machine cases, then adjudicating elements relating to that conduct collectively can even out resource imbalances between plaintiffs' attorneys and defendants and reduce the possibility of inconsistent verdicts.

As you may imagine, a lot rides on that one trial.  Issue classes work by generating two-way preclusion in follow-on cases.  In the Ohio "smelly washer" trial against Whirlpool, the defense verdict meant that defendants could preclude class members from relitigating those same issues in subsequent cases.  (Granted, the class was limited to Ohio purchasers, but did include some 100,000 consumers.)  The high stakes suggest that anytime courts certify an issue for class treatment they should be prepared to allow an interlocutory appeal on the merits (not just the certification question as Rule 23(f) permits).  It also means that courts shouldn't certify trivial issues for class treatment.  As the ALI in its Principles of the Law of Aggregate Litigation suggest, the issue class should "materially advance the resolution of the claims," which would be the case with regard to most conduct-related questions.

February 6, 2015 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Current Affairs, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Future of Class Action Litigation: A View from the Consumer Class

NYU's new Center on Civil Justice is hosting a conference on November 7 titled "The Future of Class Action Litigation: A View from the Consumer Class."  Here's a bit more information for those in the area who might be interested (I understand there will be up to 6 CLE hours available):

Co-hosted with the NYU Journal of Law & Business

Keynote Address by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Friday, November 7, 2014

REGISTER HERE.  Up to 6  hours of New York State CLE credit will be available to both experienced and newly admitted attorneys under the Areas of Professional Practice Category.

NYU School of Law
Vanderbilt Hall, Greenberg Lounge
40 Washington Square South

Have consumer class actions run their course? Once, they were praised for increasing access to justice by compensating "small claims held by small people." They were also seen as a form of regulation, because they allowed private enforcement of the law by overcoming the economics of small-stakes individual litigation. This view was so widely accepted that the Supreme Court described these "negative value" suits as "the very core of the class action mechanism."  

Now, consumer class actions face serious criticism for failing to provide compensation for class members or to achieve effective market regulation.  Courts and commentators have questioned whether class members or society benefit from these cases. Perhaps as a result, it is harder to certify a consumer class action today than at any time since the adoption of modern Rule 23 in 1966.

This conference will explore whether consumer class actions deserve the criticism—or the praise—that they have received. Participants will discuss a broad range of issues about the recent development of the law of consumer class actions. The conference will also consider what the criticism of consumer class actions means for the future of class actions more generally. If "the very core" of class actions goes away, what will be left? 

 

Conference Schedule

8:30 - 9:00 am - Registration

(Registration will take place just outside of Greenberg Lounge)

9:00 - 9:15 am  - Welcoming Remarks

Introduction – Peter L. Zimroth, Director of the Center on Civil Justice

Remarks - Dean Trevor W. Morrison, NYU School of Law

9:15 - 10:30 am: Panel 1 -  The Current State of the Consumer Class Action

Moderator:  Samuel Issacharoff, Bonnie and Richard Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law and Faculty Co-Director, Center on Civil Justice, NYU School of Law

When Peace is Not the Goal of a Class Action Settlement
D. Theodore Rave, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center

The Identifiable Consumer: The Ascertainability Doctrine and Rule 68 Offers as Impediments to the Class
Myriam Gilles, Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Comments: Andrew Pincus, Mayer Brown LLP

10:30 - 10:45 am - Coffee Break

10:45 am - 12:00 pm: Panel 2 - Reforming the Consumer Class Action

Moderator:  Troy A. McKenzie, Professor of Law and Faculty Co-Director, Center on Civil Justice, NYU School of Law

Constructing Issue Classes
Elizabeth Chamblee Burch, Associate Professor of Law, University of Georgia School of Law

Compensation in Consumer Class Actions:  Data and Reform
Brian T. Fitzpatrick, 2014-15 FedEx Research Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School (with Robert C. Gilbert, , Grossman Roth)

Comments:  Elizabeth J. Cabraser, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP

12:00 - 1:00 pm - Lunch

1:00 - 2:15 pm: Panel 3 - Alternatives to the Consumer Class Action

Moderator:  Michael S. Barr, Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School

Contract Procedure, Regulatory Breakdown
David L. Noll, Assistant Professor of Law, Rutgers University School of Law – Newark

Government Compensation and the Class Action
Adam Zimmerman, Associate Professor of Law, Loyola Law School

Comments: Mark P. Goodman, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

2:15 - 2:30 PM: Break

2:30 - 3:45 PM: Panel 4 - Roundtable Discussion:  Consumer Class Actions and the Future of the Class Action

Moderator: Arthur R. Miller, University Professor and Faculty Co-Director, Center on Civil Justice, NYU School of Law

Participants:

  • Sheila A. Birnbaum, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
  • Elizabeth J. Cabraser, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
  • Charles Delbaum, National Consumer Law Center
  • Andrew Pincus, Mayer Brown LLP
  • Hon. Lee H. Rosenthal, US District Court for the Southern District of Texas

4:00 - 4:45 pm: Keynote Address

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Introduction by Arthur R. Miller

4:45 - 5:00 PM: Closing Remarks by Peter Zimroth

 

Register here

October 14, 2014 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Conferences, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Remanding Multidistrict Litigation

I've been a bit slow in posting this, but Louisiana Law Review hosted an excellent symposium last spring titled The Rest of the Story: Resolving the Cases Remanded by the MDL.  As part of that symposium, I wrote a piece titled Remanding Multidistrict Litigation.  Remands are something that have received scant attention in the scholarly literature, but are a constant hope for many plaintiffs' lawyers involved in multidistrict litigation (well, at least those who aren't on the steering committees). 

I just got around to posting the piece on SSRN today.  Here's the abstract:

Multidistrict litigation has frequently been described as a “black hole” because transfer is typically a one-way ticket. The numbers lend truth to this proposition. As of 2010, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation remanded only 3.425% of cases to their original districts. That number dwindled to 3.1% in 2012, and to a scant 2.9% in 2013. Retaining cases in hopes of forcing a global settlement can cause a constellation of complications. These concerns range from procedural justice issues over selecting a forum and correcting error, to substantive concerns about fidelity to state laws, to undermining democratic participation ideals fulfilled through jury trials in affected communities. Yet, if transferee judges remanded cases after overseeing discovery into common issues, they could alleviate those concerns while avoiding inconsistent rulings on common questions and streamlining discovery.

Despite the potential upside, remand rarely occurs because it disfavors those with litigation control—transferee judges, lead plaintiffs’ attorneys, and defendants. Transferee judges deem settlement a hallmark of their success. Lead plaintiffs’ lawyers try to increase their fees by inserting fee provisions into settlements. Likewise, plaintiffs’ attorneys can bypass doctrinal uncertainties over weak claims by packaging plaintiffs together in a global settlement. And aggregate settlements allow defendants to resolve as many claims as possible in one stroke, take their hit, and return to business, which their shareholders view as a net positive.  The remand process itself defers to these vested interests. Although the Panel could remand cases at a party’s request, in practice it appears never to have done so. Rather, it waits for the transferee judge to admit defeat and suggest remand—thereby conceding failure.

For transferee judges to begin remanding cases, the “pro-settlement” norm and “remand-as-a-failure” stigma must change.  Accordingly, transferee judges should routinely entertain a suggestion for remand by a party or initiate them sua sponte as soon as discovery on common issues concludes and only case-specific issues remain.  Likewise, the Panel should seriously consider parties’ remand requests even when the transferee judge does not support them.  This reopens a direct line for parties to request remand when common discovery ends, but the transferee judge prefers to hold cases hostage in hopes of coercing settlement.

October 4, 2014 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Conferences, Current Affairs, Informal Aggregation, Lawyers, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mullenix on Compensation Funds

Professor Linda Mullenix has posted a new article titled "Designing Compensatory Funds: In Search of First Principles" on SSRN.  It takes on several high-profile compensation funds and may have something of interest to say about how GM is designing its own compensation fund.  Here's the abstract:

The World Trade Center Victims’ Compensation Fund of 2001 ushered in a new age of fund approaches to resolving claims for mass disasters in the United States. Since then, numerous funds have been created following several mass events injuring large numbers of claimants. The Gulf Coast Claims Facility, created in the immediate aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion, represented a further expansion of fund design and operation. The funds that have been implemented since 2001, including the World Trade Center Fund, have been the object of both praise as well as criticism. Notably, all these funds have been designed and implemented after the events giving rise to a universe of mass claimants. This article suggests that the policy recommendations for future fund design largely fail to address antecedent threshold questions about the nature of the events giving rise to possible recourse to a fund for compensation of claims. Although such compensation funds have been intended to provide an alternative to the tort compensation system and to operate largely outside the purview of the judicial system, instead most fund designs have relied on tort notions of corrective justice that mimic the tort system. However, many funds have in practice entailed mixed theories of corrective and distributive justice, confusing the purpose, utility, and goals of such funds. This article asks fundamental questions about the goals of such funds and whether and to what extent disaster compensation funds comport with theories of justice. It suggests that certain types of mass disaster events ought not to be resolved through fund auspices at all, while only a limited universe of communitarian harms should give rise to such a response. Finally, a communitarian fund designed ex-ante might more fairly be based on theories of distributive justice based on an egalitarian social welfare norm.

August 4, 2014 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Current Affairs, Environmental Torts, Mass Tort Scholarship, Settlement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lawyers Seek MDL Status for Ignition-Switch Liability Suits Against GM

Plaintiffs' attorneys huddled in Chicago on Wednesday to strategize about where to ask the MDL Panel to send the GM ignition switch cases.   As usual, there are several things that will influence plaintffs' attorneys' pick.  

According to this morning's article in the WSJ, Elizabeth Cabraser called the litigation "a perfect storm for a class action."  Maybe.  But that will largely depend on which circuit and which judge hears the case, how GM's bankruptcy affects the pending claims, and whether attorneys forgo personal injury claims (they will likely be excluded in the class definition) to pursue product liability and economic injuries.  

Choice of procedural law, like how to apply Rule 23, can vary.  Under Chan v. Korean Airlines, Ltd. (D.C. Cir. 1989), the Van Dusen doctrine, which holds that transferee courts must apply the choice of law interpretation of the transferor circuit, may not apply to 1407 transfers.  Rather, when it comes to procedural and other federal law matters, Korean Airlines suggests that transferee courts are obligated to follow their own interpretation of the relevant law.  Several circuits follow this rationale including the Second, Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh.  Other circuits, including most notably, the Seventh, have held that a transferee court should use transferor court's interpretation of federal law.

 According to Bloomberg, several plaintiffs' attorneys are pushing for a California venue before Judge James Selna, who is currently handling the Toyota acceleration MDL.  This strategy makes sense on several fronts.  The Ninth Circuit, which originally upheld (in part) the certification in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., has shown a willingness to resolve aggregate cases through class actions.  And given that courts in the Ninth Circuit apply their own procedural law where circuit splits are concerned, this could further help plaintiffs.  Finally, Judge Selna, who certified an economic loss settlement class action in the Toyota litigation, is a logical choice.

But other plaintiffs' attorneys (and of couse GM) have other ideas about where the MDL should land.  Bloomberg reports:

Other plaintiffs want the cases to be heard in Chicago, Miami or Corpus Christi,Texas, where they have sued. GM wants the cases consolidated in the federal court in Manhattan, about a mile from where a prior incarnation of the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Company lawyers say proximity to the bankruptcy court trumps Selna’s experience.

While the Panel considers the forum requests by the parties, it is in no way limited to those venues.  There are several factors that it typically cites in favor of forum selection such as the location of discovery materials, convenience of the witnesses, location of grand jury proceedings, possibility of coordination with related state-court proceedings, where the majority of cases are located, knowledge of the transferee judge, and the willingness and motivation of a particular judge to handle an MDL docket.  Of these factors, the transferee judge is by far the most important.  The Panel tends to look for judges who have handled MDLs successfully in the past.  And, for better or worse, "successful" means quick settlement (see here, p. 11-12 for more).

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigaiton is comprised of seven judges from around the country. Judge David Proctor is the Panel's newest edition and was added just this year to replace Judge Paul Barbadoro.

For more on the process that will--and should--unfold once a transferee judge is appointed and how those judges should go about appointing lead lawyers, see here.

 

 

May 29, 2014 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Current Affairs, Lawyers, Procedure, Products Liability, Vehicles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

FDA to Regulate E-Cigarettes

The FDA announced its plans to begin regulating E-Cigarettes today.  According to many consumers, the proposed regulations have taken too long already.  For example, a March 23, 2014, New York Times article titled "Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes," explained that,

These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.

As a USAToday article explains, even "[t]he proposed rules won't ban advertising unless the products make health-related claims nor will they ban the use of flavors such as chocolate or bubble gum, which public health officials say might attract children."  Yet, the lawsuits so far have trended in the opposite direction of what one might expect.  The most widely advertised lawsuits to date are either brought on behalf of smokers challenging New York City's ban on "vaping" e-cigarettes in public places or over e-cigarette patents.

April 24, 2014 in Current Affairs, FDA | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

LSU Symposium on Multidistrict Litigation

Louisiana Law Review is hosting a symposium on Multidistrict Litigation this Friday, March 7, 2014, that focuses on remand and may be of interest to our readers.  The title of the symposium is "The Rest of the Story: Resolving Cases Remanded by MDL Here's the link for registration and additional information.

Here's the list of Panels and Panelists:

8:25-8:30: Welcome Address & Opening Remarks

  • Chancellor Jack Weiss; LSU Law School

 8:30-9:30: Panel 1: Collaboration of Judges and Attorneys in MDL Case Management

The panel will discuss how attorneys and judges can successfully collaborate to use disaggregation as a tool of effective case management.

Moderator: Francis McGovern; Professor of Law, Duke Law School

  • Judge Eldon Fallon; U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
  • Richard Arsenault; Neblett, Beard, & Arsenault
  • James Irwin; Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore, LLC

 9:40-10:40: Panel 2: Effectively Planning for Disaggregated Discovery

The panel will discuss when discovery issues should be disaggregated for separate resolution, and the costs, benefits, and challenges of reserving issues for separate discovery. 

Moderator: Judge Lee Rosenthal; U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

  • Mark Lanier; The Lanier Law Firm
  • James Irwin; Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore, LLC
  • Dean Edward F. Sherman; Tulane University Law School

 10:50-11:50: Panel 3: Integrating Aggregated and Disaggregated Discovery Issues

The panel will discuss various kinds of discovery (e.g., E-Discovery, expert discovery, and specific discovery), and the strategic and case management challenges each method presents in the context of MDLs, including both aggregated and disaggregated discovery issues. 

Moderator: Mark Lanier, The Lanier Law Firm

  • Judge Lee Rosenthal; U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • Francis McGovern; Professor of Law, Duke Law School
  • Richard Arsenault; Neblett, Beard, & Arsenault
  • David Jones; Beck Redden, LLP

 11:50-12:10: Lunch Break

12:10-1:10: Panel 4: (Lunch Presentation) The Real Story: FJC Data on What the Empirical Data on MDL Remands Shows

Federal Judicial Center researchers will present findings from their research on multidistrict litigation. The analysis will focus on two sets of cases: (1) cases that are considered for transfer but not transferred, and (2) cases that are transferred and that are subsequently remanded back to the transferor court. Understanding these cases, and the cases that are resolved in the transferee court, may provide some insight into the effects of aggregation on various kinds of cases

Moderator: Judge Lee Rosenthal; U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

  • Emery G. Lee, III, Federal Judicial Center
  • Margaret Williams, Federal Judicial Center
  • Catherine Borden, Federal Judicial Center

 1:20-2:20: Panel 5: When Remand is Appropriate

The panel will discuss at what stages plaintiffs, defendants, and judges perceive optimal windows to disaggregate various kinds of issues, and the factors that influence the decision and timing.

Moderator: Dean Edward F. Sherman, Tulane University Law School

  • Judge Fallon; U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
  • Professor Elizabeth Burch, University of Georgia School of Law
  • David Jones, Beck Redden, LLP

2:30-3:30: Panel 6: How Remand Should be Effectuated

The panel will discuss how judges and attorneys work together to effectuate remand of MDL cases, including methods for ensuring smooth transitioning of work product, case management, and expertise to state and federal judges upon remand. 

Moderator: Francis McGovern; Professor of Law, Duke Law School

  • Judge Fallon; U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
  • Professor Teddy Rave, University of Houston
  • Professor Elizabeth Burch, University of Georgia School of Law

 3:30-3:45: Closing Remarks

 

ECB

March 4, 2014 in Conferences, Current Affairs, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure, Settlement, Trial | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on Whether CAFA Permits Removal of AG Actions

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether parens patriae actions brought by state attorneys general are removable as mass actions under the Class Action Fairness Act.  (Mississippi ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics Corp., U.S., No. 12-1036)  The lower courts have split on the issue, with the Fifth Circuit holding that such actions are removable when the citizens are the "real parties in interest," and the Fourth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits reaching the opposite conclusion.  The Fifth Circuit, in Louisiana ex rel. Caldwell v. Allstate Insurance Co., held that because the attorney general sought damages on behalf of insurance policy holders, the policy holders were the real parties in interest to that relief.  But other courts, even within the Fifth Circuit, have distinguished that reasoning.  Judge Fallon, for example, in some of the Vioxx cases, held that the Kentucky attorney general's action against Merck was not removable as a class action.  He distinguished Caldwell, reasoning that it was decided under CAFA's mass action provision and the citizens of Kentucky were not the real parties in interest.  Instead, the Kentucky attorney general was requesting injunctive relief and civil penalties, not damages as was the case in Caldwell.

The issue is an important one as the standard for certifying a class action has become more rigorous.  Many commentators have argued that state attorneys general should step into the breach to provide relief and deterrence when actions aren't certifiable as class actions.  Yet, questions remain about this approach.  Specifically, most parens patriae statutes do not contain the same protections as Rule 23 does with regard to adequate representation.  Plus, courts are often unsure how to evaluate issue or claim preclusion when a private citizen sues in the wake of a parens patriae action.

For the interested reader, yesterday's BNA Class Action Litigation Report had an article by Jessie Kokrda Kamens about the oral argument.  Her take was that even though some justices questioned state attorneys generals' motives in bringing parens patriae actions, they weren't ready to declare them removable under CAFA.

ECB

November 7, 2013 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Current Affairs, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Vanderbilt's 2014 New Voices in Civil Justice Scholarship Call For Papers

Vanderbilt Law School’s Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program invites submissions for its 2014 New Voices in Civil Justice Scholarship Workshop, to be held May 12-13, 2014, at Vanderbilt Law School. 

The New Voices format maximizes collegial interaction and feedback. Paper authors do not deliver prepared “presentations.” Rather, all participants read the selected papers prior to the session, and at each workshop, a senior faculty member provides a brief overview and commentary on the paper. Open and interactive discussion immediately follows. 

Submission requirements: 

1. Subject matter. Submitted papers should address an aspect of civil justice, broadly defined. Subject areas may include, but are not limited to, civil procedure, complex litigation, evidence, federal courts, judicial decision-making, alternative dispute resolution, remedies, and conflict of laws. In keeping with the intellectual breadth of the Branstetter Program faculty, the Workshop welcomes all scholarly methodologies, from traditional doctrinal analysis to quantitative or experimental approaches. 

2. Author qualifications. To be eligible to submit a paper, scholars must currently hold either a faculty position or a fellowship. 

3. Format / Anonymity. We will consider preliminary drafts, drafts under submission, or accepted papers that will not be published by the time of the workshop. Papers should be formatted either in Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat. To maintain the anonymity of the process, please remove any self-identifying information from the submission. 

4. Deadline. Submissions should be e-mailed to Branstetter.Program@vanderbilt.edu no later than January 1, 2014. Please include your name, current position, and contact information in the e-mail accompanying the submission. We will contact you with our decision by February 15. Final drafts are due no later than April 15. 

The Branstetter Program will pay all reasonable travel expenses within the United States for invited participants. Additional information can be found at http://law.vanderbilt.edu/newvoices. If you have any questions, please email the chair of the selection committee, Brian Fitzpatrick, at brian.fitzpatrick@vanderbilt.edu. 

ECB

September 21, 2013 in Conferences, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

20th Annual Clifford Symposium

This spring's 20th Annual Clifford Symposium at DePaul University College of Law is featuring Judge Jack Weinstein's Impact on Civil Justice in America.  It looks like they have lined up an allstar cast, with Justice Stephen Breyer giving the special address.  Speakers include:

Susan Bandes, DePaul University College of Law

Anita Bernstein, Brooklyn Law School

Shari Seidman Diamond, Northwestern University

Howard M. Erichson, Fordham University School of Law

David L. Faigman, University of California Hastings College of the Law

Kenneth R. Feinberg, Feinberg Rozen LLP

Richard D. Friedman, University of Michigan Law School

Judge John Gleeson, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York

John C.P. Goldberg, Harvard Law School

James R. Hackney, Northeastern University School of Law

Judith S. Kaye, Chief Judge (ret.) New York Court of Appeals; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates

Alexandra D. Lahav, University of Connecticut School of Law

David Marcus, University of Arizona College of Law

Judge Brian R. Martinotti, Bergen County, New Jersey

Jennifer L. Mnookin, UCLA School of Law

Jeffrey Morris, Touro Law Center

Linda S. Mullenix, University of Texas School of Law

Robert L. Rabin, Stanford Law School

Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York

Elizabeth Schneider, Brooklyn Law School

Tom R. Tyler, Yale Law School

Judge Jack B. Weinstein, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York

Adam Zimmerman. Loyola Law School, Los Angeles

The symposium takes place on April 24, 2014.  Here's a link to the brocure.

ECB

September 21, 2013 in Conferences, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Justice Kagan Interview

You can find an interview with Justice Kagan here.  

 

At around 20:52 you can see her speaking about Italian Colors and then whether this is a pro-business Supreme Court.

Note the caveat then the description and what looks like a "yes".  She says:

"None of us decide cases based on who the parties are.  Its not like the Chamber of Commerce appears in court and you say I like the Chamber of Commerce...or a consumer appears in court and you say I like consumers or they need more protection or they don't.  I mean, I think people look at the individual cases before them.  But I do think in a number of cases with respect to a number of areas of law there is a majority of the court that has a set of legal views that, you know, provide some significant relief from both federal and state regulation to businesses.  So if you look at just even the last couple of weeks of the term there were a couple of cases in which the Court very restrictively read anti-discrimination laws, made it harder to bring anti-discrimination suits.  There was another case where the Court made it harder for local governments to put conditions on development permits or to do environmental mitigation of some kinds.  There was another case where people made it -- where the Court made  it -- much harder for injured plaintiffs who have had terrible reactions to various kinds of pharmaceutical drugs to sue for injury.  So I think there were a number of cases where the Court made it more difficult for injured persons to come to court and to use federal and state law to hold business to account for injuries that they've done."

At 31.09 Toobin asks her about public opinion's effect on the Court - do they read polls?  Her answer, not really any more enlightening than you'd think it would be:

"I don't think we read polls like that and I don't think polls influence what we do, but you know, on the other hand, we live in a world and I think...all of us are products of that world and understand things that are going on with it.  And I think it would just not be right to say that the trends in what people think and societal attitudes don't affect what the Court does."

ADL

July 3, 2013 in Current Affairs, Preemption | 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)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Vanderbilt's New Voices in Civil Justice Workshop

Vanderbilt is conducting its annual New Voices in Civil Justice Workshop on May 6-7 and has issued a call for papers.  Papers should be submitted by January 1, 2013.  Both Alexi and I participated last year and I can attest that it's a great program and a wonderful way for junior scholars to receive feedback from senior folks in the field in a relaxed environment.  (Plus, Nashville is lovely in the spring if you need an additional reason to submit a paper!)  Here's the information from Vanderbilt and a link to the program website:

Vanderbilt Law School’s Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program holds an annual New Voices in Civil Justice Workshop in the spring. Junior scholars’ works are selected based on an anonymous review of an outstanding group of papers submitted for consideration. A senior scholar briefly introduces and comments on each paper before opening the session up to discussion about the work. The senior scholars typically include Branstetter faculty and several distinguished visitors.

The Branstetter Program draws on a multimillion-dollar endowment to support research and curriculum in civil litigation and dispute resolution. The New Voices workshop brings together junior scholar authors, invited senior scholars, and Vanderbilt faculty in the areas of civil justice.

This year, four junior scholars will be selected via a blind review process to present at the New Voices Workshop. The 2013 New Voices in Civil Justice Scholarship Workshop will be held at Vanderbilt Law School on May 6-7, and the Branstetter Program invites submissions for the workshop.

The New Voices format maximizes collegial interaction and feedback. Paper authors thus do not deliver prepared “presentations” as such. Rather, all participants read the selected papers prior to the session, and at each workshop, a senior faculty member provides a brief overview and commentary on the paper. Open and interactive discussion immediately follows.

ECB

November 12, 2012 in Conferences, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 15, 2012

NY Times Article on Chinese Drywall

On October 12, 2012, the New York Times reported on several decisions holding that Taishan Gypsum, the Chinese manufacturer of questionable drywall, was subject to personal jurisdiction in the United States.  Specifically, Judge Fallon in the federal MDL (located in Louisiana) and Judge Farina in the Miami Dade Circuit Court both ruled that Taishan Gypsum targeted the Florida market by "courting Florida companies, mailing drywall samples to Florida, [and] selling large amounts of drywall to Florida-based companies."

Even Congress has gotten involved and some members have introduced the Contaminated Drywall Safety Act that would insist the Chinese government force manufacturers to acquiesce to American jurisdiction.  So far, however, the bill has been passed only in the House.

The NY Times article is available here.

ECB

October 15, 2012 in Current Affairs, Environmental Torts, Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 9, 2012

NPR Interview with Ken Feinberg About His New Book

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sherry on Concepcion and Dukes

Suzanna Sherry (Vanderbilt) has posted a copy of her forthcoming article, "Hogs Get Slaughtered at the Supreme Court," on SSRN.  Here's the abstract: 

Class action plaintiffs lost two major five-to-four cases last Term, with potentially significant consequences for future class litigation: AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion and Wal-Mart v. Dukes. The tragedy is that the impact of each of these cases might have been avoided had the plaintiffs’ lawyers, the lower courts, and the dissenting Justices not overreached. In this Article, I argue that those on the losing side insisted on broad and untenable positions and thereby set themselves up for an equally broad defeat; they got greedy and suffered the inevitable consequences. Unfortunately, the consequences will redound to the detriment of many other potential litigants. And these two cases are not isolated tragedies; they provide a window into a larger problem of Rule 23. When plaintiffs’ lawyers chart a course for future litigants, they may be tempted to frame issues broadly for the “big win” – with disastrous consequences. I suggest that it is up to the courts, and especially to those judges most sympathetic to the interests of class-action plaintiffs, to avoid the costs of lawyers’ overreaching. That is exactly what the dissenting Justices (and the judges below) failed to do in these cases.

ECB

April 11, 2012 in Class Actions, Current Affairs, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)