Category: Civil Procedure

It’s an MDL World: Agreement is enough, or is it?

The JPML held its second hearing of 2022 at the end of March. We addressed the results of the first hearing recently here, and further observed the JPML’s trend over the course of the last several years in forming fewer MDL proceedings each year. As we move further into 2022, it is clear this trend has continued.

In April, the JPML formed two new MDLs out of four total petitions, bringing the cumulative total of new MDLs in 2022 to four (out of seven petitions considered)—well below the typical quarterly pace for new MDLs, including that of 2021. Through its orders, the JPML provided insights into the circumstances that justify MDL formation, and those that do not. We briefly discuss these orders below:

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It’s not what happened, but why: First Circuit rejects conclusory, unsupported expert opinions

It is not uncommon for an opposing expert to opine that the existence of injury alone implies negligence, nor is it unusual to find that such opinions are supported only by general reliance on “literature” with no discernible connection to the issue at hand. Certainly, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) requires an expert’s report to contain “a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them.” And, Federal Rule of Evidence 702 requires that an expert not only base an opinion on sufficient facts or data but also reliably apply his or her methodology to those facts or data. Yet all too often, courts decline to hold an expert to task and instead find that these deficiencies go to the weight, but not the admissibility, of an expert’s opinion. But, as recently observed by the First Circuit, an expert must do more than merely cite the existence of an injury if a res ipsa loquitur argument is not available. And regardless, an expert’s failure to link the literature cited to the opinions offered is not a matter of insufficiency, but rather of unreliability.

In López-Ramírez v. Toledo-González, — F.4th —, 2022 WL 1261299 (1st Cir. 2022), Plaintiff experienced hearing loss, facial paralysis and loss of balance following a neurosurgical procedure performed by the defendant neurosurgeon. Plaintiff sued the physician and the hospital, alleging that the defendant neurosurgeon’s failure to properly evaluate, treat and monitor her condition during the surgery amounted to medical malpractice. In support of that claim, Plaintiff disclosed a neurology expert who opined that the defendant neurosurgeon deviated from the standard of care and included with his report articles from the medical literature that he felt “may be helpful” in understanding his opinions.

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District of Delaware Chief Judge’s New Standing Order Requires Disclosure of Third-Party Litigation Funding

The District of Delaware is the latest in a series of courts to require disclosure of third-party funding arrangements, a subject we have previously explored. The Chief Judge in the District of Delaware now joins other courts like the District of New Jersey and the Northern District of California in requiring these disclosures.

On April 18, 2022, Chief District Judge Colm F. Connolly of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware issued a standing order requiring litigants to disclose whether their cases are being financed by third parties. The standing order requires that, “where a party has made arrangements to receive from a person or entity that is not a party (a ‘Third-Party Funder’) funding for some or all of the party’s attorney fees and/or expenses to litigate th[e] action on a non-recourse basis,” either for “a financial interest that is contingent upon the results of the litigation” or “a non-monetary result that is not in the nature of a personal loan, bank loan, or insurance,” the party must disclose certain details of the funding relationship within 45 days of the entry of the standing order (i.e., by June 2, 2022) for existing cases, or within 30 days of the filing of an initial pleading or transfer of a new matter into the District.

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Eastern District of Pennsylvania Issues Lone Pine Order in Zostavax MDL

Multidistrict litigation is often criticized for enabling plaintiffs to file meritless cases and then hide in large inventories, hoping to be swept up in a settlement (whether global or otherwise) before the case is meaningfully probed through discovery.  Traditional tools such as plaintiff profile sheets and early screening orders represent a partial solution, as they can help identify cases with more obvious flaws such as those that are clearly time-barred or lack proof of product use.  But some issues, such as critical gaps in causation, are beyond the reach of the limited case-specific discovery permitted for most cases in an MDL.  Enter the Lone Pine order, a case management order by which a court requires all plaintiffs to produce evidence establishing specific elements of their claim.

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It’s an MDL World: The JPML issues its first orders of the year, creating two new MDLs

Centralization of claims in multidistrict litigation has become the new normal—so much so, that MDL proceedings now comprise more than 50 percent of the federal civil caseload. But has MDL practice in the United States peaked? Only time will tell. While the total number of MDL cases remains high (424,720 cases as of mid-February), the vast majority of these cases are concentrated in just a few of the more crowded MDL dockets. And as the annual MDL statistics in recent years show, the total number of new MDL petitions submitted, and granted, has been in decline. In 2021, for example, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation received 33 total MDL petitions, granting only 19—compared with 44 petitions (26 granted) the year before.

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Eastern District of Virginia Denies Motion to Certify Class, Sheds Light on Rule 23(b)(3) Predominance and Superiority Requirements for Class Actions

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia analyzed Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3)’s predominance and superiority requirements for class actions in a recent decision denying a motion to certify a purported class of motor vehicle purchasers.  The decision underscores that plaintiffs seeking to certify classes asserting claims that will render the process of identifying class members to be a mere series of individualized inquiries will not pass muster under Rule 23.

The Facts in Dispute

Garcia, et al. v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., et al. involved a purported class of plaintiffs residing in multiple states who purchased vehicles manufactured by defendants within the last 14 years.  The plaintiffs sued a group of auto manufacturers alleging damages resulting from defendants’ alleged fraudulent misrepresentations about the vehicles, and asserting claims for violations of the Federal Odometer Act, fraud, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment, in addition to state law claims under the laws of California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and Washington.

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