Those Aggrieved by the Proposed Xarelto Settlement
May Still Get a Chance to be Heard
Thus far firms representing absent plaintiffs (those not represented by leadership) have yet to be given an opportunity to be heard by the court regarding any aspect of the proposed Xarelto settlement. I previously addressed this issue in another article.
Without Regard to the points made in the prior article, even if the proposed Xarelto settlement agreement reaches the required participation numbers, it should not be a done deal. For Judge Fallon to grant specific common benefit fee requests, it will arguably be necessary to form a “Settlement Class Action” under FRCP 23. Once this occurs, his honor will not have the option of ignoring FRCP 23(e), the requirement to conduct fairness hearings before final approval of the settlement. This will be the time at which firms representing absent plaintiffs will get their chance to be heard and I believe these firms will have much to say.
If Judge Fallon allows the proposed Xarelto settlement to impact plaintiffs, without ever having engaged in any act to protect the rights of absent parties, this egregious failure may well define his legacy, overshadowing and otherwise admirable judicial career.
Note: Nothing would prevent a firm representing a non-settling client from moving to form a Class Action for non-settling plaintiffs, aggrieved by the settlement.
Due to the fact that the proposed Xarelto Settlement did not follow the “opt in” reasoning (see article by Judge Fallon below), the only way the necessity of creating a settlement class could be avoided would be if 100% of all Xarelto plaintiffs accepted the settlement. Even under this circumstance, jurisdictional issues would still exist. I will address this subject more thoroughly later in this article. First, I will cover recent developments.
Latest Spin on the Xarelto Settlement
I have learned that leadership claims that 26,000 enrollment packages have been received by Brown Greer and they are very confident that they will reach 98% participation. MTN can not verify leaderships statements with Brown Greer as they seem to have been gagged by leadership. Regardless, the proposed settlement only covered 25,000 plaintiffs. The total number of complaints on file in the MDL and Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has ballooned to over 31,339 plaintiffs since the proposed settlement was first announced. The foregoing begs the question “98% of what”. 26,000 is 82.96% of 31,339. If we take leadership at their word and believe 26,000 plaintiffs have accepted the settlement, then we must assume that the settlement is going to include more than 25,000 plaintiffs and base on “participation calculus” on the total number of cases on file, which is at least 31,339.
Settling 26,000 cases would leave 5339 remaining. I do not believe that the defendants can sell a settlement to their stockholders that leaves 5339 cases (unknown risks) unresolved.
A reliable source has informed me that the “98% participation claim” was based on 98% of the 70% of plaintiffs that have returned the enrollment package, not 98% of all plaintiffs. Maybe leadership is counting on using the “dismissal machine” they have arguably created in co-operation with defense, to get rid of the non-enrollers and therefore do not think these plaintiffs need be counted.
Though I can not verify the foregoing (Brown Greer gagged), I believe the 26,000-enrollment number may be significantly exaggerated or at minimum skewed. Leading non leadership firms to believe the proposed settlement will consummate would be a good way to get firms reluctant to encourage plaintiffs to except the settlement to change course. A self-fulfilling prophecy (stated as fact) if you will.
The Chance and Right to be Heard
I stated, in the previous article (link above) that Judge Fallon arguably lacks subject matter jurisdiction to issue orders related to an MDL settlement. I also stated that since Judge Fallon is an MDL judge that subscribes to the MDLs as Quasi Class Actions theory and therefore should have held FRCP 23(e) fairness hearings before or currently with issuing in order related to settlement as His Honor did in Vioxx and other MDLs in the past.
Putting aside the above, absent Xarelto plaintiffs (those not represented by leadership firms) may still have a chance to be heard.
How an MDL Judge can properly involve themselves in settlement:
- Plaintiff Leadership and Defense reach a settlement agreement without seeking orders from the court.
- Plaintiff Leadership presents the settlement to firms representing absent plaintiffs and if enough those plaintiffs opt into the settlement to meet the required participation threshold, then the settlement can be consummated (only for those that opted in).
- Only after the foregoing, would it be proper for the court to become involved. Plaintiff Leadership and Defense can present the consummated agreement (with all opt ins) to the Judge and seek to form a Settlement Class Action (under FRCP 23).
Obviously the ship has sailed with regard to Judge Fallon conducting FRCP 23(3) fairness hearings before or concurrently with issuing orders related to settlement however, it would be inconceivable for His Honor to issue orders granting specific Leadership and PSC Firms common benefit fees without a “Settlement Class Action” being formed.
Why? Without a Settlement Class Action in place, Judge Fallon will have no control over or authority to grant any order related to the global proceeds of the mass settlement.
The Opportunity to Be Heard- Finally
If the proposed Xarelto Settlement reaches the required participation numbers and is consummated, Judge Fallon will only be able to take control of the global proceeds (in order to grant common benefit fees) via a Settlement Class Action. This will be the point at which firms representing absent plaintiff firms will (as required FRCP 23(e) to be heard). If Judge Fallon neglects to conduct fairness hearings before granting fees, an appellate court is likely to overturn any order granting common benefit fees.
The link below is from a 9th Circuit in the Hyundai Kia MDL. A settlement was reached in this MDL and a Settlement Class Action was granted by the MDL Judge.
Excerpts from Ruling:
On December 23, 2013, the settling parties sought preliminary approval of the nationwide class settlement and moved to certify a settlement class. The district court ordered multiple rounds of briefing concerning the fairness of the settlement, sufficiency of the class notice, the claims process, class certification, choice of law, and other issues. At four hearings held between December 2013 and August 2014, the parties addressed concerns raised by the court sua sponte as well as by objectors and other non-settling plaintiffs. In response to these concerns, the settling parties twice revised the settlement agreement and notice provisions.
After issuing several detailed written rulings, the district court granted preliminary approval of the settlement and certified the class for settlement purposes on August 29, 2014. The court appointed Hagens Berman and McCuneWright as settlement class counsel. In September and October 2014, the district court held four additional hearings, at which it requested that the parties make additional changes to the settlement notices and website, such as adding information about the Reimbursement Program, and rewording the notices to make them easier to understand.
A binding settlement must provide notice to the class in a “reasonable manner” and otherwise be “fair, reasonable, and adequate.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(e)(1), (2)
Before the district court approves a class settlement under Rule 23(e), it is “critical” that class members receive adequate notice. Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1025. To satisfy Rule 23(e)(1), settlement notices must “present information about a proposed settlement neutrally, simply, and understandably.” Rodriguez v. W. Publ’g Corp., 563 F.3d 948, 962 (9th Cir. 2009). “Notice is satisfactory if generally describes the terms of the settlement in sufficient detail to alert those with adverse viewpoints to investigate and to come forward and be heard.’” Id. (quoting Churchill Vill., LLC v. Gen. Elec., 361 F.3d 566, 575 (9th Cir. 2004)).
Rule 23(e) ensures that unnamed class members are protected “from unjust or unfair settlements affecting their rights.” Amchem, 521 U.S. at 623 (1997).
Over the course of several years, the district court performed an admirable job of managing this complex litigation. After the settlement was announced, the district court held multiple status conferences and requested several rounds of briefing to ensure that all of the litigants’ concerns were heard and addressed.
Note: The 9th circuit ruling leave little doubt that had the settlement court failed to comply with FRCP 23(e), that courts grant of attorney’s fees to “Class Counsel” would not have withstood appeal.
Moving Forward -Two Possible Outcomes
- Judge Fallon moves forward with a settlement class (if the settlement consummates) without the required FRCP 23 (e) fairness hearings, in which case any grant of common benefit fees arising from the court would likely be overturned on appeal.
- Judge Fallon moves forward with a settlement class and does (as required) conduct fairness hearings per FRCP 23(e). Although belated, this would give firms representing absent class members to object to the terms of the settlement as well as any common benefit fees being awarded from the settlement proceeds. Even those plaintiffs that rejected the settlement or were subject to dismissal arising from a settlement related order would arguably have standing (the right to be heard).
- Leadership Self-Dealing (subject of a future article).
- Leadership Conclusion with defense to create a “dismissal machine.
- Unwarranted Discounts.
- Overly Complex processes created by settlement orders, leading to denial of due process.
- Settlement related orders issued absent jurisdiction over the subject matter.
The article below, written by Judge Fallon
COMMON BENEFIT FEES IN MULTI-DISTRICT LITIGATION
By: The Honorable Eldon E. Fallon
Note:. In the article, Judge Fallon, as he has on numerous occasions, referred to “private mass tort settlements” as opt in (vs class actions which are opt outs). His Honors reference to these settlements as Opt In vs Opt Out seems to imply that his jurisdiction over settlement arises from the agreement of the parties that Opt In. By Implication this would mean that any party that does not opt in should not be negatively impacted by the given settlement. This has obviously not held true in the proposed Xarelto Settlement.
The following excerpt from the article by His Honor express the same view he expressed in Vioxx, which involved a settlement very similar to the proposed Xarelto Settlement (with 4 billion additional dollars for roughly the same number of plaintiffs) . In Vioxx, Judge Fallon conducted the Rule 23(e) hearing he references below to allow absent plaintiffs a voice in the settlement. I have yet to discern why His Honor believes Xarelto plaintiffs are less deserving of due process than Vioxx Clients.
The argument used by the courts supporting their equitable authority to review attorneys fees is that Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure expressly provides that a district court presiding over a class action has a duty to scrutinize the attorneys fees of class counsel to assure that they are reasonable. The transferee judge in MDLs should have the same responsibility because MDLs are quasi class actions since their purpose and function is the same as the traditional class action namely efficiency and coordination before a single court. Furthermore, many MDLs contain multiple class actions along with the individual claims and it is not unusual to utilize the settlement class vehicle provided by Rule 23(e) to resolve the entire Thus Rule 23 is often an integral part of the MDL process.
Has Judge Fallon Became to Chummy with Xarelto Leadership?
Just out of curiosity I have submitted a Form A0 10A to the Judicial Committee on Financial Disclosures, requesting Judge Fallon’s financial disclosures for 2013-2018. I already have copies of his disclosures through 2012 and His Honor discloses that his travel and other expenses are paid by third parties when he attended conferences 2012 and prior. I am curious to find out if MTMP paid Judge Fallon’s expenses when he attended MTMP conferences over the past few years. Paying for trips to lavish resorts in sin city for a Federal Judge before whom a firm currently has matters subject to litigation, is something I find worth exploring.
Required Reading for those wanting to improve their knowledge of all things MDL settlement.
Mass Tort Deals: Backroom Bargaining in Multidistrict Litigation
But this book, it may shock even the most cynical!
By: Elizabeth Chamblee Burch
Elizabeth Chamblee Burch is the Fuller E. Callaway Chair of Law at the University of Georgia. Her teaching and research interests include mass torts, class actions, and civil procedure. She has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School.
Other worthwhile reading authored by Professor Burch:
Monopolies in Multidistrict Litigation
Repeat Players in Multidistrict Litigation
Judging Multidistrict Litigation
Morphing Case Boundaries in Multidistrict Litigation Settlements
By: Margaret S. Thomas
About Professor Thomas: https://www.law.lsu.edu/directory/profiles/margaret-s-thomas/
Once Size Doesn’t Fit All: Multidistrict Litigation, Due Process and the Dangers of Procedural Collectivism
By: MARTIN H. REDISH & JULIE M. KARABA
Martin H. Redish is the Louis and Harriet Ancel Professor of Law and Public Policy at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Redish has written 19 books and over a hundred law review articles in the areas of civil procedure and constitutional law.
About Professor Redish: http://www.law.northwestern.edu/faculty/profiles/MartinRedish/
Julie Karaba (Siegal is) currently a Clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts, United States Supreme Court.
Judicial Review of Private Mass Tort Settlements
By: Jeremy T. Grabill
About Jeremy Grabill: https://www.phelps.com/jeremy-grabill
TAKING A SECOND LOOK AT MDL PRODUCT LIABILITY SETTLEMENTS: SOMEBODY NEEDS TO DO IT
By: Christopher B. Mueller
About Professor Mueller: https://lawweb.colorado.edu/profiles/profile.jsp?id=38
DUBIOUS DOCTRINES: THE QUASI-CLASS Action
By: Linda S. Mullenix
AGGREGATE LITIGATION AND THE DEATH OF DEMOCRATIC DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Also by: Linda S. Mullenix
About Professor Mullenix: https://law.utexas.edu/faculty/linda-s-mullenix
Books by Professor Mullenix: https://www.amazon.com/Linda-S.-Mullenix/e/B001HML766
Managing Related Proposed Class Actions in Multidistrict Litigation
By: Catherine R. Borden
Government of the United States of America – Federal Judicial Center
GLOBAL SETTLEMENTS IN NON-CLASS MDL MASS TORTS
By: Amy L. Saack
About Amy Sacck: http://www.davisrothwell.com/attorney/amy-saack/
STANDARDS AND BEST PRACTICES FOR LARGE AND MASS-TORT MDLS
BOLCH JUDICIAL INSTITUTE, DUKE LAW SCHOOL
Disclaimer: The author of this article, John Ray, is not an attorney. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of John Ray. Publication of this article by any third party should not be considered endorsement of nor agreement with the opinions expressed by the author.