Friday, September 12, 2014

Oregon Supreme Court Applies Aggregate Settlement Rule to Clergy Abuse

On August 21, 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court embraced the ALI's definition of a non-class aggregate settlement and held that an attorney who represented victims of clergy abuse failed to get the clients' informed consent before distributing a lump-sum settlement.  In In re Complaint as to the Conduct of Daniel J. Gatti, the court noted that Gatti failed to get clients' informed consent in writing to the formula or method he devised to divvy up the defendants' lump-sum settlement payments, which violated Rule 1.8(g).  As a result, the court imposed a 90-day suspension as a sanction.

For more on the problems associated with lump-sum settlements, see Howie's article, The Trouble with All-or-Nothing Settlements.

September 12, 2014 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Informal Aggregation, Settlement, Sexual Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Coverage of GM's New Fund

Joe Nocera has a short opinion piece on Ken Feinberg and his work in progress - the GM claims fund. You can find the piece here.  The question for Feinberg is always - is this replicable?  The answer depends on the company's tolerance for risk and desire for atonement.  

The New York Times' Danielle Ivory also covered the new fund here, explaining how the fund works.

I also recommend the Valukas report on GM. My favorite part is his description of the "GM nod."  Everyone at a meeting nods their head to a plan, nobody actually does anything to move it forward.   

July 1, 2014 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Informal Aggregation, Lawyers, Products Liability, Vehicles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Judging Multidistrict Litigation

I posted a new article to SSRN this morning that's been a labor of love for well over a year now.  I'm excited about this new piece for a few reasons.  

First, it debuts an original data set of all lead lawyers appointed in 72 product liability and sales practices MDLs that were pending as of May 14, 2013.  As such, it's the only paper (that I know of) that includes empirical evidence on plaintiffs-side repeat players appointed to leadership positions.  (Yes, it includes a list of some of the most entrenched repeat lawyers and law firms as an appendix.)  (If this is of interest, have a look at Margaret Williams, Emery Lee, and Catherine Borden's recently published paper in the Journal of Tort Law titled Repeat Players in Federal Multidistrict Litigation, which looks at all plaintiffs' attorneys in MDLs using social network analysis.) 

I also explain why appointing a leadership group comprised of predominately repeat players can cause inadequate representation problems.  For example, repeat players playing the long game have rational, economic incentives to curry favor with one another, protect their reputations, and develop reciprocal relationships to form funding coalitions and receive client referrals.  As such, extra-legal, interpersonal, and business concerns may govern their interactions and trump their agency obligations to uniquely situated clients who could threaten to bust a multi-million dollar deal.  Non-conforming lawyers may be ostracized and informally sanctioned, which promotes cooperation, but deters dissent and vigorous representation.  Over time, expressing contrary opinions could brand the dissenting lawyer a defector, which could decrease lucrative leadership opportunities.  (Other reasons abound, which I explain on pages 25-27 of the paper.) 

Second, it provides some much needed guidance for transferee judges.  Although the Manual for Complex Litigation remains the go-to guide for transferee judges, it hasn't been updated in 10 years.  So much has changed since the fourth edition was published in 2004.  Accordingly, in "Judging Multidistrict Litigation," I suggest best practices for appointing and compensating lead lawyers.  Judges can compensate lead lawyers on a coherent and more predictable basis by distilling current theories down to their common denominator: quantum meruit.  Quantum-meruit awards would align fees with other attorney-fee decisions and compensate leaders based on the value they actually add.  

Third, as anyone familiar with the area knows, settlement review in nonclass litigation is controversial at best.  After judges expressly deny class certification they then harken back to Rule 23 and their "inherent equitable authority" to comment on settlements.  So, employing a quantum-meruit theory for awarding lead lawyers' attorneys' fees would give judges a legitimate private-law basis for scrutinizing settlements.  Because courts must evaluate the case's success to determine how much compensation is merited, it could likewise help stymie a trend toward self-dealing where repeat players insert fee provisions into master settlements and require plaintiffs and their attorneys to "consent" to fee increases to obtain settlement awards.

The article is forthcoming in N.Y.U. Law Review in April of 2015, so I still have a bit of time to tinker with it and welcome comments in the interim (eburch at uga.edu).  In the meantime, here's the formal SSRN abstract.

High-stakes multidistrict litigations saddle the transferee judges who manage them with an odd juxtaposition of power and impotence. On one hand, judges appoint and compensate lead lawyers (who effectively replace parties’ chosen counsel) and promote settlement with scant appellate scrutiny or legislative oversight. But on the other, without the arsenal class certification once afforded, judges are relatively powerless to police the private settlements they encourage. Of course, this power shortage is of little concern since parties consent to settle. 

Or do they? Contrary to conventional wisdom, this Article introduces new empirical data revealing that judges appoint an overwhelming number of repeat players to leadership positions, which may complicate genuine consent through inadequate representation. Repeat players’ financial, reputational, and reciprocity concerns can govern their interactions with one another and opposing counsel, often trumping fidelity to their clients. Systemic pathologies can result: dictatorial attorney hierarchies that fail to adequately represent the spectrum of claimants’ diverse interests, repeat players trading in influence to increase their fees, collusive private deals that lack a viable monitor, and malleable procedural norms that undermine predictability.

Current judicial practices feed these pathologies. First, when judges appoint lead lawyers early in the litigation based on cooperative tendencies, experience, and financial resources, they often select repeat players. But most conflicts do not arise until discovery and repeat players have few self-interested reasons to dissent or derail the lucrative settlements they negotiate. Second, because steering committees are a relatively new phenomenon and transferee judges have no formal powers beyond those in the Federal Rules, judges have pieced together various doctrines to justify compensating lead lawyers. The erratic fee awards that result lack coherent limits. So, judges then permit lead lawyers to circumvent their rulings and the doctrinal inconsistencies by contracting with the defendant to embed fee provisions in global settlements—a well recognized form of self-dealing. Yet, when those settlements ignite concern, judges lack the formal tools to review them. 

These pathologies need not persist. Appointing cognitively diverse attorneys who represent heterogeneous clients, permitting third-party financing, encouraging objections and dissent from non-lead counsel, and selecting permanent leadership after conflicts develop can expand the pool of qualified applicants and promote adequate representation. Compensating these lead lawyers on a quantum-meruit basis could then smooth doctrinal inconsistencies, align these fee awards with other attorneys’ fees, and impose dependable outer limits. Finally, because quantum meruit demands that judges assess the benefit lead lawyers’ conferred on the plaintiffs and the results they achieved, it equips judges with a private-law basis for assessing nonclass settlements and harnesses their review to a very powerful carrot: attorneys’ fees.

May 16, 2014 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Ethics, Informal Aggregation, Lawyers, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure, Products Liability, Settlement, Vioxx, Zyprexa | 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)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

One Fund Boston

Over at the Conglomerate Blog, Christine Hurt has a great post on the One Fund Boston and individual victim fundraising.  Her blog post is entitled One Fund Boston, Torts and Social Capital.

ADL

 

April 25, 2013 in Informal Aggregation, Mass Disasters, Resources - Other Blogs of Interest, Weblogs | 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

Friday, April 20, 2012

McKenzie on the Bankruptcy Model for Mass Torts

Troy McKenzie (NYU) has posted "Toward a Bankruptcy Model for Non-Class Aggregation."  I look forward to reading it.  Here is the abstract:

In recent years, aggregate litigation has moved in the direction of multidistrict litigation followed by mass settlement without certification of a class action — a form commonly referred to as the “quasi-class action.” Driven by increased restrictions on class certification, the rise of the quasi-class action has been controversial. In particular, critics object that it overempowers lawyers and devalues the consent of individual claimants in the name of achieving “closure” in litigation. This Article presents two claims.

First, the debate about the proper scope and form of the quasi-class action too frequently relies on the class action as the touchstone for legitimacy in aggregate litigation. References to the class action, however, are more often misleading than helpful. The basic assumptions behind the class action are different in degree and in kind from the reality of the quasi-class action. Overreliance on the class action as the conceptual framework for aggregation carries the significant risk of unintentionally shackling courts in their attempts to coordinate litigation. The very reason the quasi-class action emerged as a procedural device — the ossification of the class action model of litigation — suggests that courts and commentators should look for another reference model when assessing what is proper or improper in quasi-class actions.

Second, bankruptcy serves as a better model for judging when to use, and how to order, non-class aggregation of mass tort litigation. The entirety of bankruptcy practice need not be imported to realize that bankruptcy may provide a useful lens for viewing aggregation more generally. That lens helps to clarify some of the most troubling concerns about the quasi-class action, such as the proper role of lawyers and the place of claimant consent. Bankruptcy serves as a superior reference model because it starts with an assumption that collective resolution is necessary but tempers the collective with individual and subgroup consent as well as with institutional structures to counterbalance excessive power by lawyers or particular claimants.

ADL

April 20, 2012 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Informal Aggregation, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

BP, the Gulf Coast Claims Fund, and MDL Plaintiffs' Lawyers

All that in the recent interesting op-ed from New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera -- BP Makes Amends.

BGS

January 14, 2012 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Environmental Torts, Informal Aggregation, Lawyers, Mass Disasters, Procedure, Punitive Damages, Settlement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Financiers as Monitors in Nonclass Aggregation

I recently posted a working draft of a new piece titled "Financiers as Monitors: Unbundling Agency, Risk, and Reward in Aggregate Litigation" on SSRN.  The thurst of the piece is that courts will certify fewer and fewer class actions after Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes and AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion.  When cases are economically viable en masse, they're likely to proceed as mass torts currently do, as nonclass aggregation (think Vioxx).  This means that the ethically questionable practices in mass tort litigation (i.e., threatening to withdraw from representing clients who refuse to accept a proposed settlement offer) will invade protypical class action areas like employment discrimination, civil rights, and toxic torts.  

The basic gist of the proposal is that third-party funders could perform a monitoring function in large-scale nonclass litigation and that by unbundling the attorney's role as a financier from that as an advisor, she could be a more faithful agent.  Financiers would contract with plaintiffs for a portion of the litigation's proceeds on a nonrecourse basis.  They'd then negotiate the fee arrangement with the plaintiffs' attorneys, preferably on a billable hour rate (plus, perhaps some small percentage of the proceeds as a successful litigation bonus).  My hope is that this would both reduce the need for monitoring by alleviating the financial tension that a contingent-fee relationship injects and create a viable monitor in the financier. 

Here's the SSRN abstract:

This Article offers a new way to monitor large-scale litigation that proceeds outside the bounds of Rule 23. Although class actions receive all the scholarly attention (and public scorn), after the Supreme Court’s decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the class action’s existence is limited, at best. The shadowy world of nonclass aggregation, where attorneys threaten to pull the rug out from under their own clients if they refuse to accept a settlement, will take its place. Despite the attorney overreaching and questionable ethics that have emerged as attorneys scramble to patch together the finality that class certification once afforded, there is no substitute for the judicial monitoring that Rule 23 provided. In short, the nebulous world of mass-tort litigation will become the new operating model for all types of would-be class actions — from employment-discrimination claims to civil-rights litigation to toxic torts.

The answer to this conundrum comes from an equally controversial source: alternative litigation financing. You see, litigating massive cases can take a small fortune, which is fronted by the contingent-fee attorney. And it is the prospect of complete financial ruin that drives plaintiffs’ attorneys to act unethically and coerce clients into settling. Thus, if a third party bore the financial risk, the attorney could be a faithful agent again. But alternative litigation financing, where hedge funds and venture capitals invest in and profit from litigation, raises plenty of ethical issues on its own and has its own cadre of critics. Although wedding the two is bound to spark fireworks, this Article seeks to carefully engineer their union such that it benefits society as a whole and plaintiffs in particular.

This draft is still in its very early stages, so I'd certainly welcome any thoughts or comments on it (eburch[at]uga.edu).

ECB

December 13, 2011 in Class Actions, Current Affairs, Informal Aggregation, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fifth Annual Conference on the Globalization of Class Actions and Mass Litigation at The Hague

The Fifth Annual Conference on the Globalization of Class Actions and Mass Litigation is being hosted by Tilburg University and will be held on December 8-9, 2011 in The Hague, Netherlands.  The conference is being organized by Professors Deborah Hensler (Stanford Law School), Christopher Hodges (Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and Erasmus University), and Ianika Tzankova (Tilburg University).  Master claim administrator Kenneth Feinberg is delivering the keynote speech.

BGS  

November 27, 2011 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Conferences, Ethics, Informal Aggregation, Lawyers, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Levaquin Bellwether Trials Update

BNA reports that a set of cases (one trial, two plaintiffs) reached a defense verdict in the Levaquin pharma litigation.  Beare v. Johnson & Johnson, N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div., No. ATL-L-196-10, verdict 10/14/11; Gaffney v. Johnson & Johnson, N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div., No. ATL-L-4551-09, verdict 10/14/11).  The cases are consolidated before Judge Carol Higbee of New Jersey, who also oversaw the New Jersey Vioxx litigation.

The allegations are the the manufacturer of the antibiotic did not provide adequate warnings of its potential to cause tendon injuries. There are six more bellwether cases to go. According to BNA there are approximately 1,900 Levaquin cases before Judge Higbee.

I don't have information about how the bellwether cases were picked or why eight is the number.  For an analysis of how judges can do a more rigorous job of using bellwether trials to promote case resolution and equality among litigants, see my latest paper: The Case for "Trial by Formula." 

ADL

October 20, 2011 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Informal Aggregation, Pharmaceuticals - Misc., Products Liability, Vioxx | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Grabill on Judicial Review of Private Mass Tort Settlements

Jeremy Grabill (Weill, Gotshall) has posted to SSRN his article, Judicial Review of Private Mass Tort Settlements, which is forthcoming in the Seton Hall Law Review.  Here's the abstract:

In the mass tort context, class action settlements have largely given way to a unique form of non-class aggregate settlements that this Article refers to as “private mass tort settlements.” Although it has been argued that aggregation in tort law is “inevitable,” the legal profession has struggled for many years to find an effective aggregate settlement mechanism for mass tort litigation that does not run afoul of the “historic tradition” that everyone should have their own day in court, assuming they want it. Over the last decade, however, as a result of the evolution of non-class aggregate settlements, a new opt-in paradigm for mass tort settlements has emerged that is true to that historic tradition. This Article discusses the new opt-in paradigm and the appropriate contours of judicial authority vis-à-vis private mass tort settlements.

Private mass tort settlements present a difficult conundrum for presiding judges. On one hand, mass tort litigation requires active judicial involvement and oversight due to the sheer size and complexity of such matters. Thus, having been intimately involved in the litigation from its inception, it understandably seems natural for courts to want to exercise some degree of control over private mass tort settlements. But, on the other hand, like traditional one-on-one settlements and unlike class action settlements and other specific settlements, private mass tort settlements do not impact the rights of absent or unrepresented parties. Perhaps not surprisingly then, courts have struggled in applying established principles concerning the scope of judicial authority to evaluate and oversee the implementation of traditional settlements in the unfamiliar context of private mass tort settlements. 

This Article seeks to provide a clear path forward by first examining the limited contexts in which courts have the authority to evaluate and oversee the implementation of traditional settlements, highlighting the nature of the absent or unrepresented interests that judicial review is designed to protect in those traditional contexts. The Article then discusses the emerging opt-in paradigm for mass tort settlements and traces the paradigm’s lineage to three recent cases: In re Baycol Products Liability Litigation, In re Vioxx Products Liability Litigation, and In re World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation. The Article argues that the well-established maxim that courts lack authority over private one-on-one settlements should apply with equal force to private mass tort settlements because these non-class aggregate settlements allow each individual plaintiff to decide whether or not to settle on the terms offered and do not impact the rights of absent or unrepresented parties. In short, courts do not have - and do not need - the authority to review private mass tort settlements. The Article concludes by addressing the arguments that have been advanced to support judicial review of non-class aggregate settlements, debunking the “quasi-class action” theory that some courts have relied upon to regulate attorneys’ fees in connection with mass tort settlements, and discussing the various ways in which courts may nevertheless be able to influence private mass tort settlements.

BGS

August 29, 2011 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Informal Aggregation, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Actuarial Litigation: How Statistics Can Help Resolve Big Cases

I'm organizing a conference with the University of Connecticut Insurance Law Center called "Actuarial Litigation: How Statistics Can Help Resolve Big Cases" to be held on Friday, April 15, 2011 at UConn.

The participants are an amazing group and there should be a lot of chances for synergy between experts in statistics, experts in law and everyone in between.  Here is the list:

Kenneth R. Feinberg, Feinberg Rozen LLP - who needs no introduction

Robert G. Bone, University of TexasLaw School

Edward K. Cheng, Vanderbilt Law School

Howard Erichson, Fordham Law School

James Grenier, Harvard Law School

Deborah Hensler, Stanford Law School

Samuel Issacharoff, New York University Law School

Joseph B. Kadane, Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Statistics

Francis McGovern, Duke Law School

Adam Scales, Washington & Lee School of  Law

Alex Stein, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

 

ADL

 

 

January 20, 2011 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Class Actions, Conferences, Informal Aggregation, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ken Feinberg Cover Story in ABA Journal

Reporter Terry Carter provocatively asks, "Is Ken Feinberg changing mass tort law?" in the article, The Master of Disasters

BGS

January 11, 2011 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Environmental Torts, Informal Aggregation, Lawyers, Settlement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Feinberg to Pay "Bonus" for Release of Some Claims

John Schwartz at the New York Times reports that Ken Feinberg is offering to pay additional sums to those recipients of emergency funding willing to release their claims. Apparently people whose emergency funding fully compensated them can get an additional $5,000 for individuals and $25,000 to release their claims, promising BP that they will not sue.  Feinberg "suggested that the likeliest candidates for the payment might be those who had received emergency funds and had determined that their losses have already been fully covered by the BP fund, or who believe they will not be able to properly document further losses."

The article reports that the fund will provide free legal advice and perhaps additional help in filling out forms to claimants.

ADL

 

December 13, 2010 in Environmental Torts, Informal Aggregation, Lawyers, Mass Disasters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Other-Regarding Preferences in the 9/11 Workers Settlement

Reading yesterday’s New York Times article on the 9/11 Workers Settlement, I couldn’t help but think of the other-regarding preferences and psychological influences that played a role in garnering the requisite 95.1% agreement.  The two claimants quoted in the article, Jennifer McNamara (whose firefighter husband died of colon cancer last year) and Kenny Specht, a retired firefighter with thyroid cancer, both framed their ultimate decision to participate in the settlement in terms of helping others within the community of plaintiffs.  As described by the N.Y. Times, McNamara “explained to friends in a letter that she did not want to delay the settlement for the many plaintiffs who needed it to pay mortgages and medical bills.”  Specht said, “I am not sure that holding out for a better offer will ever be something that is attainable.”  

I’ve written about this internal group pressure in the past and how claimants might be able to use it to their benefit as opposed to lawyers using it for theirs.  It does appear that Napoli Bern Ripka LLP held at least one town hall meeting (video footage available below), but I’m not sure whether claimants were encouraged or given opportunities to discuss the deal with one another or whether the lawyers did most of the talking.  Given the claimants geographical proximity to one another in the 9/11 Workers Settlement as well as the closeness of the firefighting and police officers’ communities, it appears that altruism, reciprocity, and a concern for others' well-being within their community played a significant role in members’ decision to approve the settlement (though the settlement did not receive the 100% approval rate that would have paid out $712 million).  Others simply appeared to be exhausted by the protracted litigation and wanted finality.  Still others, at least 520 of them, opted out (or did not respond by the deadline).  A New York Times article last August described several plaintiffs' difficult decision-making process.

 

Although the House of Representatives has approved a bill that would reopen the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund, the Senate has yet to approve it and those who have signed on to the 9/11 Workers Settlement will be ineligible for compensation.  

Here's a link to Napoli Bern's press release (with the percentage of claimants signing-on in each tier).

ECB

 

 

November 20, 2010 in 9/11, Current Affairs, Informal Aggregation, Mass Disasters, Settlement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BP Oil Spill Fund to Go Into Operation on Aug. 23, Receives Claims From All 50 States

Bloomberg Businessweek has a thorough article by Jim Snyder, looking at the issues of compensation and remoteness of claims.  So far, BP has paid out $352 million in emergency payments for 114,100 claims, and BP has received a total of 142,400 claims.

BGS

August 17, 2010 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Environmental Torts, Informal Aggregation, Mass Disasters, Procedure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)