An important aspect of mass tort case management involves the level of coordination between cases in a federal MDL and those cases in state courts involving the same product. The MDL judge in the Digitek products liability multidistrict litigation, In Re: Digitek Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 1968, No. 08-md-1968( S.D. W.Va.), issued an order coordinating activities between the federal litigation and the mass tort litigation recently coordinated before the state court in West Virginia’s Circuit Court. In Re: Digitek Litigation, No. 08-C-5555, (W.Va. Cir., Kanahwa Co.).

Readers of MassTortDefense will recall the nationwide recall of Digitek products, involving tablets with higher dosage than called for which may have been released to the public. Approximately 60 cases arising from the recall were transferred last August to a multidistrict litigation assigned to Chief U.S. Judge Joseph R. Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia. Later in the Fall, multiple Digitek stats court cases were coordinated in the Kanawha County Circuit Court.

Pretrial Order (PTO) No. 11 concerns state and federal coordination. The court found that the state and federal litigation share common issues and will involve common discovery.  The court said proper coordination will avoid unnecessary conflicts and expense, conserve judicial resources, and expedite the disposition of all the cases.

He ordered lead and liaison counsel for the plaintiffs and defense to endeavor to coordinate activities between the federal and state litigation. He also ordered the creation of a joint document depository for use by parties in the federal-state litigation. The Order provides a mechanism for cross-noticing depositions.  Also, counsel in the West Virginia state litigation who obtain confidential documents are subject to the confidentiality/protective order issued in the MDL.

Chief Judge Goodwin also said he is prepared to conduct “consolidated hearings and status conferences with the presiding state judicial officers, and to enter joint rulings, except to the extent that differences may be mandated by different laws or rules governing this court or justified by particular circumstances of the cases before this court.”