October 24, 2019 Articles

Book Review: Mass Tort Deals: Backroom Bargaining in Multidistrict Litigation

The unquestionable strength of Professor Burch’s book is its foundation on prodigious data gathering on MDLs.

By Paul Rheingold

Mass Tort Deals: Backroom Bargaining in Multidistrict Litigation
Elizabeth Chamblee Burch
Cambridge University Press, 2019 (277 pages)

It takes some bravado for a professor who has written a book devoted to showing the faults in handling mass tort cases, especially in the settlement process in multidistrict litigation (MDL), to ask a plaintiffs’ lawyer to do a review. Perhaps Professor Burch, who is Fuller E. Callaway Chair of Law at the University of Georgia, felt that as a participant in this sort of litigation, your reviewer here would admit to fault and agree with her proposals to improve the practices surrounding the mass settlement of cases. In this aim, she has only partially succeeded.

The book is a heavy indictment of the way in which MDLs are operated today, by the judges but more so by the plaintiffs’ bar. Professor Burch feels that there is a too cozy relationship between the two and with defendants as well. Settlements are forced on the victims (OK, call them claimants) in a way that gives them no options, and their voices are squelched. Ethics issues are brushed aside. 

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