Earlier this year, we discussed the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s decision to enter a Lone Pine order – that is, a case management order that requires all plaintiffs to produce evidence establishing specific elements of their claim – in the Zostavax MDL. That post can be viewed here. We lauded that Lone Pine order’s potential to save the parties considerable time and expense while advancing the purposes of the MDL by weeding out meritless cases. That potential recently came to fruition: the court in the Zostavax MDL dismissed 1,189 cases for failure to comply with the Lone Pine order. In re: Zostavax (Zoster Vaccine Live) Prods. Liab. Litig., 2022 WL 17477553 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 6, 2022).
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.