What’s Going on Behind the Scenes of My Case?
Posted on Friday, October 30th, 2020
Being a plaintiff in any lawsuit can be a big test in patience, but waiting months or years for developments in a mass tort litigation can be especially frustrating.
We get it. We really do.
Sometimes weeks or months go by with no news, but that doesn’t mean your legal team isn’t hard at work. There are always processes going on behind the scenes that, though they don’t warrant an update, ultimately affect your case.
We often say that mass torts are not a race; they’re a marathon. So why do mass torts (often tried as multi-district litigations, or MDLs) take so long, and what’s happening behind the scenes while you wait?
Courts and Mass Torts
Mass torts involve hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs suing one or more defendants, usually large corporations, for damage the defendant(s) allegedly caused.
The court will decide if an MDL should be established. The main advantage for the court is that, in an MDL, a single judge is assigned to handle most or all of the cases. This allows the court to operate more efficiently because processes don’t have to be duplicated.
Though litigation can go on for years, the advantage for plaintiffs is that it’s still a faster process than if each case went to court separately. For some of these claims, it would literally take hundreds of years to get through court if it weren’t for the centralized MDL process. Also, when these cases settle in favor of plaintiffs, they can settle for significant compensation.
Who is in Charge of an MDL?
Leadership is chosen from among the sometimes hundreds of attorneys representing plaintiffs, and the court establishes rules and guidelines that everyone must follow. This process is ongoing as cases begin to move forward. The leadership team and the defendants’ attorneys all have input into the requirements, but the judge ultimately has the final say on what and when things will happen.
What is My Attorney Doing?
As litigation begins, attorneys and their teams begin the sometimes painstaking process of collecting medical records and other evidence from plaintiffs and their healthcare providers.
Most plaintiffs have records from multiple care providers dating back a number of years, and legal teams often face significant challenges trying to obtain them.
Once records arrive, they must be reviewed to make sure they are complete and that each plaintiff’s injuries or diagnoses meet the criteria necessary to take part in the litigation. Sometimes those criteria change based on the outcomes of court decisions, bellwether trials, and other court developments.
Medical records retrieval and review is one of the most time-consuming tasks your legal team faces. Multiply the job by thousands or even tens of thousands of plaintiffs, and it becomes arduous. Thankfully, our OnderLaw teams are diligent, and we get the job done no matter how difficult it becomes.
There is other paperwork to gather, review, and categorize as well. The court often requires questionnaires, waivers, or other information specific to a case to be signed by plaintiffs and submitted. Courts impose and maintain strict deadlines, even during COVID-19 restrictions.
Our teams work hard to meet these deadlines successfully and make sure we fulfill our duty to every client who has placed their trust in OnderLaw.
Preparing for Trial
Aside from records collection, the defendants in these large cases produce millions of pages of records that must be reviewed. You can imagine the countless hours it takes to review that volume of documents.
At the same time, multiple experts necessary to prove the plaintiffs’ cases must be vetted and their testimony developed. Expert witnesses on each defendant’s side are also interviewed in depositions.
Additionally, numerous depositions of each defendant’s current and former employees, as well as of third parties, are held. The attorneys and their teams must develop their cases based on those depositions, often poring through scientific research and other evidence. All of this occurs as the attorneys sculpt their strategies in preparation for presenting the case to a jury.
Bellwether trials are the initial cases in a litigation that are heard before juries. They are called “bellwether” trials because they help both sides determine how juries will respond to certain situations and facts that are presented in court. Occasionally, they indicate plaintiffs may need to make their claims stronger; other times, juries find in favor of a plaintiff.
Even if your case is not going to trial, these bellwether trials affect you. Every win gives your legal team more bargaining power in settlement negotiations. That’s why they spend many hours interviewing potential witnesses, digging into facts and evidence, cataloguing exhibits, and otherwise preparing for trial.
Bellwether cases are chosen by the court because they represent a certain category of plaintiffs. In some cases, they represent all plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with a particular type of cancer, or who have similar circumstances around their injuries. The jury’s decision ultimately affects all cases falling under that category.
A win for one person in your MDL is usually a win for you, and while you wait patiently, your team is making sure you are in the best position to receive the compensation you are owed.
It is not possible for all cases in an MDL to be heard before juries. There simply isn’t enough time for each case to go to trial. The ultimate goal is for both sides to agree upon a settlement. We take great pride in the fact that OnderLaw is known for fighting for the best possible settlements for our clients.
Settlement negotiations are an ongoing part of any litigation. Corporations are typically more willing to negotiate after big losses in bellwether trials or prior to new trials. Not only do their shareholders not want to endure additional losses, but they also don’t want the negative publicity that trials bring.
OnderLaw attorneys have built a reputation for being tough negotiators. We fight for our clients and wait for corporations to come to the table with good-faith agreements that truly hold them accountable for the damage they’ve done.
We also fight for change. Companies will continue to put profits over people unless we send a strong message that their practices are unacceptable. That’s why we spend so much time and energy behind the scenes at the negotiating table.
In Conclusion …
Every MDL is made up of thousands of small tasks. Like grains of sand, these elements are inconsequential on their own, but when they’re all put together, they become significant.
The very nature of MDLs means that they take time — usually years — to conclude. It may seem like nothing is happening for long stretches of time, and you may be tempted to lose faith in your legal team.
Don’t lose faith.
Our OnderLaw teams are always moving forward and making a difference — one case at a time. We appreciate your patience and we are dedicated to representing you with the skill, expertise, and diligence that you deserve.
If you have questions or concerns about your case, contact your paralegal by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 314-963-9000.