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J&J, 3M seek ‘basic due diligence’ in MDLs. Get Lawyer.

J&J, 3M Among Companies Seeking 'Basic Due Diligence' In Multidistrict Litigation - More than 30 firms, including Johnson & Johnson and 3M Co, are lobbying the federal judiciary's rulemaking authority to enact a regulation that will allow cases in multidistrict litigation to be culled early on.

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In a letter to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts’ committee on rules of practise and procedure, legal officers from 31 companies said they wanted a rule governing MDL management to include a directive to have plaintiffs’ counsel demonstrate ‘basic due diligence into plaintiffs’ claims, such as evidence of exposure to the alleged cause and a resulting injury, early in the case’.

According to the March 1 letter, “high volumes of such unexamined and unsupportable claims are allowed to be ‘parked’ for extended periods of time.”

Kevin Rhodes, executive vice president and chief legal affairs officer at 3M, is one of the letter’s signatories. According to the business, the proposal will “help more efficiently and fairly resolve MDL litigation for claimants with meritorious claims.”

In an MDL, 3M is facing more than 265,000 lawsuits alleging that their Combat Arms military earplugs were defective and caused hearing loss. The firm stated that it believes the plugs were functional and safe when used properly, but that it is seeking to resolve the claims through mediation.

Johnson & Johnson did not reply to a request for comment. The company is facing more than 37,000 cases in an MDL over accusations that its talc products caused cancer. Erik Haas, J&J’s global vice president of litigation, also signed the letter. The corporation insists that its goods are risk-free.

The initiative may face some opposition. According to Ben Whiting, a partner with plaintiffs’ firm Keller Postman, the policy may result in a “rather significant level of proof just to have the right to file.”

The letter was also signed by legal executives from tobacco giant Altria Group Inc, General Motors Co, and Exxon Mobil Corp. Requests for comment were not immediately returned by the companies.

Last year, the court administration’s MDL rules panel created a rough guideline to aid judges managing MDLs in the early phases of the process. If the subcommittee accepts the idea in the letter, it may become part of the regulation.

The subcommittee will convene on March 28 and may opt to refer the proposed rule change to the full rules committee. If adopted by that committee, the regulation might be made available for public comment later this year.

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