“The MDL process is broken and any amendment of the Rules of Civil Procedure should encourage early vetting of plaintiffs’ claims.”
—John Masslon, WLF Senior Litigation Counsel

Click here for WLF’s comments.

WASHINGTON, DC— Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) today urged the Committee on Rules and Procedures to submit to the Supreme Court for approval a modified version of Proposed Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16.1. In comments filed with the Committee, WLF explains that the modified rule would help ensure that meritless claims are dismissed early in litigation.

Created by Congress in 1968 to promote efficiency and conserve finite judicial resources, multi-district litigation proceedings have not always lived up to their initial promise. Because of ad hoc procedures calculated to avoid a trial on the merits, MDLs exert tremendous pressure—especially on defendants—for global settlement. MDLs thus encourage the filing of baseless claims. Nonetheless, most civil cases in federal court are in MDLs. As the share of cases in MDLs has risen markedly in recent years, MDLs’ many shortcomings have come into sharper focus. To address these deficiencies, WLF suggests changes to Proposed Rule of Civil Procedure 16.1.

First, WLF’s comments agree that a rule mandating early evidentiary disclosures by plaintiffs is necessary. But Proposed Rule 16.1(c)(4) and its accompanying note do not accomplish this goal. Rather than requiring plaintiffs to show that they have substantiated claims that belong in the MDL, both the rule and the note refer to the exchange of information. In other words, more discovery. This will increase the burden on defendants and increase the pressure to settle. WLF’s comments urge the Committee to amend the proposed rule to place the burden only on plaintiffs to show that they have viable claims.

Second, the note to Proposed Rule 16.1(c)(4) also implicitly discourages requiring plaintiffs to provide screening information at early stages of the litigation. The note suggests that the timing of plaintiffs’ disclosures depends on the discovery process, which varies greatly from case to case. WLF’s comments urge rewriting the note to unequivocally state that early vetting of plaintiffs’ claims is key to the quick and fair administration of justice.

Celebrating its 47th year, WLF is America’s premier public-interest law firm and policy center advocating for free-market principles, limited government, individual liberty, and the rule of law.