Mass Tort Consolidation and Venue Battles – More Parts of the Madison County and Philadelphia
Venue battles are especially important for mass tort consolidations, and are always interesting to consider.
For example, Madison County is on its way to a record year of hosting asbestos cases filed on behalf of plaintiffs who live all over the nation. There are occasional forum non conveniens motions filed by defendants, but really not that many given the volume of cases with out of state plaintiffs. A conclusion one could draw is that business is getting done at amounts apparently reasonably acceptable to most of the parties onall sides, at least for now. On the other hand, the judicial hellholes web site run by the US Chamber of Commerce includes a September 24 post indicating that a "grassroots group" is trying to defeat the retention of four Madison County judges who face judicial retention elections. The targets include Chief Judge Ann Callis. Back in 2006, Judge Callis was not the target of the ICJL and other pro-defense groups (collected posts at link – word search for Callis mention in post dated Nov. 6, 2006). After the election, she even was invited to and did speak about "reforms" at a lunch hosted by the ICJL.
There is a different story in Philadelphia. That court’s mass tort calendar recently has been the target of much bad press generated by the US Chamber of Commerce and related groups. There also have been some significant plaintiff’s verdicts in trials over the last few years – see here ($78.5 million in medical malpractice during a Sunday birth when physician was forced to use an obsolete ultrasound machine with no technician available in the short term), and here ($ 72.5 million verdict against Pfizer in a Prempro case involving claims that hormones caused breast cancers in three women). It is therefore not surprising that the venue is receiving defense motions aimed at limiting the docket. For example, Philadelphia is now the subject of WSJ articles and venue motions by Roche aimed at limiting the role of Philadelphia in Accutane cases. That said, the Accutane defendants also are attacking case consolidations in other courts, including the MDL.
Conclusion? It’s all about the economics of claiming and defending, and comparative advantage perceptions (or reality). When there are hundreds or thousands of cases at issue, a change in the playing field can be significant.