Are Mass Torts Just a Massive Mess?

Last week, this blog discussed mass torts – cases brought by a group of people against one defendant for a common injury. Those cases are not class actions, but they are often combined, so that one judge can make one set of consistent decisions that apply to most cases. Some states have rules that permit cases to be consolidated. Some don’t. There is a mechanism that allows federal cases to be consolidated.

Federal cases can be consolidated, as described in 28 USC 1407, by filing a motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). The JPML has its own rules of procedure, its own requirements and makes its own decisions. The motion asks the JPML to consolidate all of the cases into one federal court for coordinated discovery. As a practical matter, however, if the JPML creates a multidistrict litigation (MDL), the MDL judge will make all decisions in that case from the moment of transfer until the moment of remand back to the transferor federal court.

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