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Lawyers For Civil Justice Applauds Appeals Court Decision Holding That

the FRCP Must Be Applied to MDL Cases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 15, 2020 – Lawyers for Civil Justice (LCJ), a national coalition of defense legal organizations, law firms, and corporations, today released the following statement on the granting of a writ of mandamus by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation. 

Earlier this year, LCJ filed an amicus brief asking the Court to issue a writ of mandamus to correct three rulings of the district court that did not conform to the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), including the district court’s decision granting leave to amend the counties’ complaint long after the deadline.

“This is an enormously important ruling not only for this high-stakes multidistrict litigation, but it also sends a clear signal to all parties in MDLs that they must comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and that there is no MDL exception loophole,” said LCJ Executive Director Andrea Looney. 

In its mandamus opinion, the three-judge panel squarely held that the “rule of law applies in multidistrict litigation under 28 U.S.C. Section 1407 just as it does in any individual case.”  It ruled that “the district court’s decision to grant leave to amend was plainly incorrect as a matter of law...” because the ruling was inconsistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and ordered that the counties’ November 2019 amendments to their complaints, adding dispensing claims against the pharmacies roughly 17 months after the deadline for such amendments, be stricken.  

Mary Massaron, author of LCJ’s amicus brief, commented that the decision should be helpful in other MDLs because the Sixth Circuit predicated its decision on the importance of the rule of law in MDLs as in all cases.  According to the court, “an MDL court’s determination of the parties’ rights in an individual case must be based on the same legal rules that apply in other cases, as applied to the record in that case alone.” 

The court continued: “What an MDL court may not do, however, is distort or disregard the rules of law applicable to each of those cases. The rules at issue here are the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which have the same force of law that any statute does.” 

The ruling concludes: “MDLs are not some kind of judicial border country, where the rules are few and the law rarely makes an appearance. For neither § 1407 nor Rule 1 remotely suggests that, whereas the Rules are law in individual cases, they are merely hortatory in MDL ones.” 


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