Well, this has been building behind the scenes, as articles starting leaking out in the business and legal press about how the plaintiff steering committee works on MDL and Mass Tort litigation, but a major rupture in the united front by the trial lawyers was announced yesterday in the online Wall Street Journal.
In what will now be known as the "gang of ten", a faction of attorney's have broken with the group handling the federal multi district litigation in New Orleans, LA, as well as the plaintiff's steering committee, and decided they are going pursue a one case at a time, "super law firm" strategy, in multiple state jurisdictions. Among the group of ten are Attorney Mark Lanier of Texas who obtain the massive $256 million verdict against Merck, and who had expressed some displeasure earlier this month in having to pay fee's and funds to the steering committee for work that he essentially felt was totally a result of his own firm's efforts.
What makes this split so profound is that now Merck is going to have an extraordinarily difficult time getting a "global settlement" of the Vioxx case, as the stated goal of the new group is to drive up values, max out individual cases, and for lack of a better analogy, turn this into more of an asbestos type litigation as opposed to a phen-fen global settlement. The former a long term, case to case, individual firm process, and the latter a comprehensive global settlement negotiated by committee.
This is the fruit of the new class action bill that made filing class actions at the state level so difficult, and is going to be a major wedge in the plaintiff strategy going forward. I'll be interviewing several major mass tort attorney's over the next week to discuss the implications of this so stay tuned.