Johnson & Johnson and 3M are among the companies requesting a new rule to cull “meritless” cases from multidistrict litigation (MDL) early on. The companies are taking issue with high volumes of what they consider unexamined and unsupported claims filling up MDLs. Several companies mired in multidistrict litigation are supporting a proposed rule to manage MDLs more effectively and avoid unsubstantiated claims in the early phases.
Companies Request Due Diligence for MDL Claims
In a letter sent on March 1 to the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, legal officers of 31 companies advocated for the creation of Rule 16.1, designed to guide early management decisions in MDLs.
These representatives believe that a lack of meaningful pre-filing due diligence inhibits “just, speedy, and inexpensive” resolutions to claims in multidistrict litigation. According to these companies, this allows unjustified claims involving plaintiffs not exposed to the product at issue or who did not have an injury within the scope of the suit to overwhelm MDLs at the beginning stages. Defendants argue that this violates their basic due process rights and delays the MDL process.
The letter calls for judges to require evidence of exposure and subsequent injury early on.
3M and Johnson & Johnson Among Signatories of Letter
Among the signatories are 3M vice president Kevin Rhodes and J&J vice president. Currently, 3M and Johnson & Johnson are facing the two largest MDLs, with more than 265,000 and 37,000 cases, respectively. The 3M multidistrict litigation focuses on claims that its combat earplugs left service members with hearing loss and tinnitus. Lawsuits targeted at J&J allege the company’s talc-based products gave users ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.
Representatives from Bayer, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, and more have also signed the letter.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys have expressed concerns since this rule will require significant proof just to simply file a lawsuit, making it increasingly difficult for victims to seek legal action.
The subcommittee meets on March 28, when it may decide whether to send the new rule to the larger rules committee. If the larger committee approves the rule, it will go to public comment later this year.