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Ground Rules for Recovering Mass Tort Attorneys’ Fees

As of August, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation reported nearly 200 pending multidistrict litigations (MDLs) in district courts across the country, with more than 140,000 lawsuits, and by the end of 2018, MDL courts were overseeing more than half of all pending federal civil cases nationwide.

Despite these numbers, there are no special procedural rules for managing many of the unique complexities of MDLs, and district judges are often left to fashion their own procedural rules of the road on a case-by-case basis.

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the Volkswagen emissions MDL sets an important precedent allowing district courts to set the ground rules for whose work on the plaintiffs’ side may later be compensable and in what circumstances.

This issue may not be at the top of mind for counsel at the outset of an MDL involving class action claims, but it should be.

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