Mass product liability litigation typically involves cases pending in federal court -- often coordinated in a mutidistrict litigation (MDL) -- and parallel actions in various state courts. Although authorities have long approved in general terms of efforts to coordinate discovery proceedings between state and federal courts in mass litigation, practical resources for practitioners looking to implement coordination in practice have been scant. But a joint effort of experienced state and federal jurists recently published the Multijurisdiction Litigation Guide complete with an inventory of best practices and sample pleadings and orders.
The new Multijurisdiction Litigation Guide is a significant development for two reasons. First, the publication represents a remarkable consensus of well-known federal and state judges on the benefits of coordination. Under the aegis of the National Center for State Courts, the Federal Judicial Center, and the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, a working group was formed comprised of five United State District Judges and five state court trial Judges, all of whom have significant experience in managing complex litigation. This broad coalition of both state and federal jurists sends a powerful message about the importance and benefits of state-federal coordination.
The second reason why the Multijurisdiction Litigation Guide is a significant is that, for the first time, it offers judges and attorneys a collection of concrete resources and advice to help achieve coordination. In addition to a printed pocket-reference handbook for judges, the full Guide is made available on a website with links to specific examples of orders and other materials that courts have actually used in MDL litigation to accomplish effective coordination. For example, the website includes samples of case management orders, orders relating to coordinating depositions, procedures for settlement disputes across jurisdictions, and examples of coordinated bellwether trial scheduling.
Making effective use of state-federal coordination is a key strategic consideration for any party involved in complex nationwide litigation. This new resource should prove extremely valuable to those whose practice involves such multi-jurisdictional litigation.
- Dan Pariser and Matthew Sullivan