As both plaintiffs and defendants get more sophisticated, the problem of how to litigate mass torts grows more complicated. In particular, both litigants and courts struggle with the question of when a verdict should have preclusive effect in mass tort litigation, and when it should not. Before he passed away last year, Vanderbilt law professor Richard Nagareda made some progress on this question in Embedded Aggregation in Civil Litigation, an article for the Cornell Law Review. As Nagareda put it:

Each instance involves what this Article labels as a situation of “embedded aggregation.” In each, a doctrinal feature

Continue Reading

This week, we begin a new feature at Class Action Countermeasures. Much as I occasionally look at classic class-action cases, I’m also going to look at classic scholarship once per month. That scholarship will have to have some connection to class actions or other kinds of aggregated litigation. And I’ll be mining these articles for what they can tell us about the modern class action.

First up, a Harvard Law Review Note from 1955, titled The Challenge of the Mass Trial. This Note is occasionally credited with influencing the 1966 Advisory Committee’s revisions to Rule 23, which created … Continue Reading

Fordham Law professor Howard Erichson (http://law.fordham.edu/faculty/1095.htm) has posted a new working paper that addresses the thorny issue of settlements in mass tort cases.  Titled Uncertainty and the Advantage of Collective Settlement, (forthcoming, DePaul Law Review) it posits six different types of uncertainty in mass torts, each of which he links to well-known cases. According to Erichson, there is uncertainty about

1. General causation (eg, Bendectin litigation)
2. Liability (tobacco/Agent Orange)
3. Exposure (ephedra/Wolburn leukemia clusters)
4. Product ID (asbestos)
5. Individual medical causation (Vioxx)
6. Damages

Erichson argues that, for cases 4, 5, and 6, aggregate settlement is … Continue Reading