April 30, 2015 Articles

The Evolution of the Common Benefit Order

By Karen Woodward and Matthew A. Reed

In a mass tort proceeding, there is no possible way for every attorney who has filed a case to litigate that action in the manner one would typically litigate a single, one-off case. The very purpose of coordinated proceedings is to aggregate like cases in a manner that results in efficiencies and cost savings to the parties and to the courts. See, e.g., In re Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) Prods. Liab. Litig., 460 F.3d 1217, 1229 (9th Cir. 2006) (the goal of multidistrict litigation is to “promote the just and efficient conduct” of cases involving common questions of fact). For this reason, one of the first judicial mandates in any coordinated proceeding is the issuance of an order appointing a limited number of plaintiffs’ counsel to a single plaintiffs’ leadership committee. The committee is then tasked with the responsibility of general case management, developing common issues for trial, and positioning the litigation for resolution.

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