Results tagged “Civil Procedure”

October 15, 2013

vairo2013.jpgBy Professor Georgene Vairo

On October 1-2, the ABA TIPS Asbestos Litigation Task Force held its second round of hearings at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. The Task Force was created to study the current state of asbestos litigation and consider ways in which fairness for both claimants and defendants can be achieved. The L.A. hearing, as well as an earlier hearing in Washington, D.C., revealed deep divisions among plaintiffs' attorneys and defendant attorneys on what needs to be done to deal with current aspects of what the U.S. Supreme Court once described as an "elephantine mass." Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp., 527 U.S. 815, 821 (1999).

A 1991 Report of The Judicial Conference Ad Hoc Committee on Asbestos Litigation 2-3 (Mar. 1991) sets forth the challenge: "[This] is a tale of danger known in the 1930s, exposure inflicted upon millions of Americans in the 1940s and 1950s, injuries that began to take their toll in the 1960s, and a flood of lawsuits beginning in the 1970s. On the basis of past and current filing data, and because of a latency period that may last as long as 40 years for some asbestos related diseases, a continuing stream of claims can be expected. The final toll of asbestos related injuries is unknown. Predictions have been made of 200,000 asbestos disease deaths before the year 2000 and as many as 265,000 by the year 2015."

We are only two years away from that date, and the asbestos litigation has morphed significantly and shows no sign of abating any time soon. Back in 1991, the Judicial Conference report identified numerous problems: growing dockets in state and federal courts; delays in getting to trial; long trials with complex issues being litigated over and over; transaction costs that dwarfed any recovery. Additionally, "the exhaustion of assets threatens and distorts the process; and future claimants may lose altogether." One piece of "good news" is that the federal MDL that was established in the same year is near completion of the resolution of most of the cases filed in the federal courts.

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February 25, 2013

Kabateck.jpgBy Brian S. Kabateck '89, Guest Alumni Blogger

Concepcion v. AT&T, 131 S.Ct. 1750 (2011) is arguably the worst consumer Supreme Court decision in the last 20 years. Interestingly, there hasn't yet been a public outcry. In this horrible decision, the court held that the Federal Arbitration Act trumps all other laws. If you don't know the case and have been living in a bubble for the last two years, the facts are simple: The Concepcions sued AT&T Mobility claiming that their cell-phone company had engaged in deceptive advertising by falsely claiming that their plan included free cell phones. Their suit became a class action. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California refused to dismiss the suit despite the fact that the contract mandated binding arbitration and prohibited class action lawsuits. The district court ruled that California law prohibits consumer adhesion contracts that waive the customer's right to a jury trial, mandate arbitration and purport to waive the right to participate in a class action lawsuit. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court's decision. The Supreme Court disagreed and held that the Federal Arbitration Act (a law that was written before the Great Depression) mandated that any arbitration agreement was absolutely enforceable, even if it appears in a contract of adhesion.

Before Concepcion, contracts of adhesion couldn't force people into arbitration in California, and class action waivers were generally held unenforceable. There are many cases all across the United States today with varying decisions on the enforceability of mandatory binding arbitration agreements. There is no doubt that mandatory arbitration in consumer contracts of adhesion is bad for most Americans. The only groups that like the idea of mandatory arbitration are big business and the chamber of commerce. Arbitration doesn't discourage consumer litigation; it eliminates it entirely. Who is going to arbitrate a $75 dispute with your phone company provider? And if your phone company is overcharging you $75, where does the consumer go? Or a $500 dispute? Or a $1,000 dispute? While a $75 rip off may not be the worst thing that happens to a consumer, it nevertheless is wrong and should be stopped. And a $75 dispute magnified over tens of thousands of customers means millions of dollars the corporation is stealing from its consumers. The state and federal governments have neither the ability nor the resources to litigate these cases on behalf of consumers. So if class actions are eliminated for this category of cases, and the government won't enforce the laws, it is a license to steal from America.

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December 13, 2012

JournalistsGuide.jpgReporting on the legal system without a law degree can be challenging. A team of Loyola Law School professors aimed to fix that by writing The Journalist's Guide to American Law. The book, published by Routledge and released on Monday, Dec. 10, serves as an essential reference for journalists whose coverage area includes the law. The authors are Professors John Nockleby, Laurie Levenson, Karl Manheim, Jay Dougherty, Dean Victor Gold, Allan Ides and Daniel Martin.

From the publisher:

How do you report on the latest sensational criminal trial or newest controversial legislation without a basic understanding of how the American legal system works? This easy-to-use guidebook offers an overview of American law that should be found on the desk of any journalism student or professional journalist. It provides an overview of major legal principles and issues in simple terms for journalists who cover any aspect of the legal system. The Guide can be used in two ways: first, as a sit-down read that gives an overview of American law; and second, as a reference that can be used every day under deadline pressure for a specific purpose. Every feature of the book is designed to serve both functions. Thus, the book's organization captures both the birds-eye view of a subject; and, alternatively, permits a quick review of a given section when the professional needs to understand a distinct concept. The areas covered range from professional concerns such as the First Amendment, cameras in the courtroom, Sunshine laws, and access to government documents to general legal matters such as the institutions of law and lawmaking function of the judiciary; core constitutional principles such as separation of powers and judicial review; and how courts function. The book is ideal for use in general newswriting and reporting courses, particularly those with a focus on legal or court reporting, and may also be used as a supplementary text in Media Law courses.

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February 17, 2012

Caplan2.jpgBy Associate Professor Aaron Caplan

We've all been there -- puzzling over the difference between impleader and interpleader, or crossclaims and counterclaims. Unfortunately, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contain very few definitions for their many terms of art. When my civil procedure students look for guidance from ordinary English dictionaries, or even Black's Law Dictionary, they are likely to find either no definitions or definitions drawn from other areas of law that may use the terms differently. To help them, I created a short glossary containing definitions geared towards the litigation system created by the Rules. Since every litigator needs to be a perpetual student of civil procedure, I am making the glossary available online.

This glossary does not attempt to define terms commonly understood ("trial"), complex terms that require knowledge of a full body of law ("jurisdiction"), or terms that are adequately defined by the Rules themselves ("initial disclosure" under Rule 26(a)(1)). But if you're ever lost in the woods and need a quick reference to tease apart an affidavit from a declaration, or to figure out if you are filing a pleading to which a responsive pleading is required, it may be just what you need.


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June 28, 2011

Georgene Vairo photo

By Professor Georgene Vairo

This is another installment in the Summary Judgments summer series, "The Headline Club," in which Loyola Law School professors will discuss legal issues ripped from the front page.

My dear colleague, Michael Waterstone, already has weighed in on the Supreme Court's decision in earlier post. As a procedure geek, I want to go down a different road and to talk a bit about Wal-Mart's place in the (r)evolution of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the rules making process. For my purposes it is necessary to dwell simply on two aspects of the opinion: the Court's discussion of commonality for Rule 23(a) purposes, and its restriction of monetary relief in the context of a Rule 23(b)(2) class action seeking injunctive relief.

First, this is the third time in relatively recent times that, in a major way, the Supreme Court has adopted such a radically different view of a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure that it amounts to an amendment of the rule outside of the Rules Enabling Act ("REA") process. See 28 U.S.C. § 2071. Starting in the 1970s, defense interests began to really scream about the costs of civil litigation. So, the Advisory Committee on the Civil Rules, appointed by the Chief Justice to adopt and amend the rules pursuant to the REA, went about tinkering [Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 85 F.R.D. 521, 523 (1980) (Powell, J., dissenting from Court's approval of 1980 Amendments regarding discovery).] with the discovery rules. In 1983, the Advisory Committee proposed more than tinkering rules amendments to Rules 11-- the sanctions rule, Rule 16-- the pretrial conference rule, and Rule 26-- the general discovery rule, to help reduce costs and delay. Did any of these amendments change anything? Yes, but they were not enough for some. In 1986, the Supreme Court entered the fray directly for the first time. In its "Summary Judgment Trilogy" [Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, and Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. V. Zenith Radio] it adopted an approach to Rule 56 that, while sensible, overturned the prevailing view that summary judgment ought to be granted sparingly because a plaintiff's right to jury trial was at stake. The Court piled on when it decided General Electric Co. v. Joiner and Kumho Tire Co., LTD v. Carmichael], the Court made the district court a gatekeeper-- keep out the junk science that plaintiffs use to defeat motions for summary judgment. Although empiricists disagree as to the extent to which the 1986 and Daubert trilogies resulted in more summary judgments or not, they certainly sent a message.

I said above that the 1986 Trilogy was "sensible" because I believed in what Justice Rehnquist said in Celotex v. Catrett --summary judgment should be "put up or shut up" time. If a plaintiff has had enough time for discovery, and it is apparent that it lacks evidence on a material issue of fact, there really is no reason for a trial. Although I have always bought into that notion, there was much loose and troubling language in the Trilogy cases. To paraphrase: "District courts ought not evaluate the evidence-- that is the province of the jury-- but they ought to take into account the quantum and quality of the evidence." Is that not weighing? In one of the cases (Matsushita), an antitrust case, the Court said that when deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the court ought to look at whether the plaintiff's claims are "plausible."

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