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“Federal MDL Rule Benefits from Public Comments,” Law360

publication | April 22, 2024

Law360 published an article written by Hollingsworth LLP partners Robert Johnston and Gary Feldon regarding the April 9 vote of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules on the proposed Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16.1, the first rule specific to multidistrict litigation.

The preliminary draft of Rule 16.1 drew major attention from MDL stakeholders aligned with both plaintiffs and defendants, receiving nearly 70 written comments by the end of the public comment period,

In response to the feedback received during the public comment period, the committee twice met to revise the proposed language of Rule 16.1 and the authoritative commentary on the rule in its committee note.[5] On April 9, the committee unanimously approved the revised language.

The revised draft of proposed Rule 16.1 instructs MDL courts to (1) schedule an initial case management conference, (2) order the parties to prepare a preconference report setting out their views on case management issues, and (3) issue an order after the conference that addresses appointment of leadership counsel and enters an initial case management plan.[7]

Furthermore, the revised draft reflects the Advisory Committee’s careful consideration of the public comments, and willingness to try to address them evenhandedly. Plaintiffs’ attorneys got their preferred process for deciding leadership counsel. MDL defendants got additional formal guidance to courts on MDL case management, especially on the problem of meritless claims.

Proposed Rule 16.1 will face additional review within the judiciary and from Congress before it is anticipated to go into effect on Dec. 1, 2025.[6] However, the language adopted by the committee is very likely to become the law.

Although it does not go as far as many commenters hoped, the current version of Rule 16.1, if adopted, would be a significant new tool in promoting efficient, merits-driven MDL case management.

Law360 subscribers may access the article online.