Posts Tagged ‘Daubert’

Multi-district litigation: time for real rules

A milestone was reached in March: over half of all cases “currently open in the federal judicial system now are contained in multi-district litigation.” [James Beck, Lexology] And that poses a problem if you believe in uniform, stable, and knowable procedures for handling cases:

As we’ve discussed many times before, the ordinary Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply sporadically, if at all in MDLs. Likewise, some MDL judges apply Daubert rigorously, and others do not. Some MDLs are disposed of on the basis of federal preemption, while other MDL judges seem never to have granted a preemption motion in their careers. Appellate opportunities are few and far between, and almost always arise when plaintiffs lose, since defense losses don’t generate immediately appealable orders. The current MDL system makes the federal judicial system resemble the baroque Holy Roman Empire – an agglomeration of hundreds of feudal principalities, feigning allegiance to one set of laws, but in reality operating more or less independently – with some of those margraves and palatine counts wielding rather despotic power.

Like some wasps do to caterpillars, agglomerations of “plaintiff steering committees,” assisted by shadowy funded media solicitors, have parasitized the federal judicial system, converting it into a system not for justice, but for converting mass solicitations into mass settlements without the merits of 99+% of the filed “inventory” ever being examined.

And because of the rise of the defendant technique known as “pre-service removal,” Beck says, the share of cases in MDLs is likely to rise further.

January 16 roundup

  • The two new heads of the judiciary committees in the Pennsylvania legislature are nonlawyers, and the legal community appears to be fine with that [Max Mitchell, Legal Intelligencer]
  • Long after his downfall in one of the worst U.S. legal scandals in years, Stan Chesley was still listed as holding an honored position at a major charity until a reporter started calling [Josh Nathan-Kazis, Forward, I’m quoted; update (Chesley’s name removed)]
  • National security restrictions form an important part of regulatory practice these days for international business, discussed at a Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention panel with William J. Haynes II, Timothy Keeler, Randal Milch, Donald Rosenberg, and moderator Eric J. Kadel, Jr.;
  • How seeking government intervention backfired on Silicon Valley [Drew Clark, Cato Policy Report]
  • Are Baltimore schools underfunded? tales of the gun buyback, local adoption of Daubert, and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes; plus redistricting updates]
  • “Despite Losing Its Copyright Case, The State Of Georgia Still Trying To Stop Carl Malamud From Posting Its Laws” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt, earlier]

Liability roundup

  • Big win for scientific rigor in the courts as New Jersey joins 40 other states in adopting Daubert standards for expert testimony, in In re Accutane Litigation [Washington Legal Foundation: Evan Tager and Surya Kundu, Joe Hollingsworth and Robert Johnston] With the long domination of the Florida Supreme Court by its liberal bloc soon to end, is it too much to hope that Florida joins the national trend too? [Evan Tager and Matthew Waring, WLF]
  • California lawyers sue electric scooter companies and manufacturers after users run into pedestrians on street, park improperly in handicapped spaces, and leave them in places where they can be tripped over [Cyrus Farivar, ArsTechnica]
  • Defendants obtain fees and costs in suit against siren maker over firefighter hearing loss [Stephen McConnell, Drug and Device Law]
  • Some safety advocates’ flip-flops on autonomous vehicle legislation in Congress might relate to trial lawyers’ agenda of the moment [Marc Scribner, CEI, more]
  • “Labaton Sucharow agrees to return $4.8M in attorney fees after attorney finder fee is revealed” [ABA Journal, earlier on State Street/Arkansas Teacher Retirement System case here, etc.]
  • MGM, Fox settle class action claiming that box set of “all” James Bond films lacked two made outside the franchise [Eriq Gardner/Hollywood Reporter, earlier]

At Commentary on the Roundup verdict

My new piece at Commentary on a San Francisco jury’s verdict ordering Bayer/Monsanto to pay $289 million to a school groundskeeper who blamed Roundup herbicide for his cancer. It bids to go down in the history books alongside the lawsuits “claiming that silicone breast implants caused auto-immune disease, common childhood vaccines caused autism, the morning sickness drug Bendectin caused birth defects, one or another make of car suddenly accelerated without any input from the driver or gas pedal, and so forth.”

At the end it concludes: “Eventually, our liability system does often get around to rejecting baseless scientific claims of causation, especially since the improvement in the handling of expert evidence embraced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow (1993). Before it gets there, however, it sometimes redistributes large sums—often to claimants, even more reliably to lawyers—and often destroys large amounts of value. In the days after the San Francisco verdict, the value of Bayer stock dropped by more than 10 billion euros. It’s expensive when error prevails.” More: The Logic of Science (“Courts don’t determine scientific facts.”) Earlier on glyphosate here. And a note on the perhaps-surprising tax implications under perhaps surprising provisions of the 2017 tax reform: Robert Wood.

Medical roundup

Liability roundup

Liability roundup

Liability roundup

Detroit: “Scared to death” theory brings $300K after 85-year-old’s crash

An 85-year-old driver crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer, both vehicles traveling at relatively low speed, and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. A Michigan appeals court agreed that a jury could hear an expert witness’s theory, dismissed by a cardiologist as “silly,” that Abdulla Kassem had suffered a heart attack that “could have been caused by a ‘fear of impending doom,’ just before the 2008 crash in Dearborn. There was no autopsy.” An insurance company has now paid $300,000 to settle the case. [AP/WDIV]

Liability roundup

  • Kip Viscusi: current structure of tort law gives firms like General Motors reason not to investigate risks/benefits of their designs [Alison Frankel, Reuters]
  • California woman in trouble after allegedly sending “faked treatment documents and burn photos from a hospital website” to bolster hot coffee spill claim against McDonald’s [ABA Journal]
  • Despite Kumho Tire, Joiner, and amendments to evidence rules in 2000, Eighth Circuit cuts its own liberal path on expert witness admissibility [Bernstein]
  • “In the BP case, the rule of law is on trial” [Lester Brickman, The Hill, on cert petition]
  • “Fighting and Winning Against Pit Bull Defense Lawyers” [Ronald Miller]
  • Business groups savor victory in racketeering suit over concocted asbestos claims [Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week]
  • Peter Spiro adds another favorable review of Paul Barrett’s Chevron/ Ecuador book Law of the Jungle [Opinio Juris]