In today's evolving litigation environment, companies are often confronted with numerous lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions brought by different plaintiffs' law firms, arising out of the same or a related group of products. We serve as "national coordinating counsel" for many of our clients, providing them with an economical and prudent investment to manage the resolution of such claims. We have extensive experience acting as national coordinating counsel for a variety of clients, primarily manufacturers, in product liability and mass tort litigation around the country. We are committed to developing a specifically tailored approach for each client and that client's litigation objectives. However, as national coordinating counsel, Miles & Stockbridge concentrates on the following objectives to best serve our clients' interests:
Taking into account the particular product and industry involved in the lawsuit and the maturity of the particular litigation, we assist our clients in formulating a company-specific approach to the litigation as a whole and developing an appropriate litigation "profile." For example, a single lawsuit may have "bet the company" implications for a client, while the plaintiffs' perspective about the client and other co-defendants in the litigation may warrant a well prepared, but extremely low-profile approach. Although we recommend flexibility in any national strategy, mixed signals and inconsistent approaches often lead to more cases, unwanted settlement expectations, or worse, unforeseen verdicts. A thoughtful and consistently applied litigation strategy goes a long way toward avoiding such pitfalls.
We work with clients directly responsible for the product or product line implicated by the litigation to conduct forensic product line investigations, reconstructing product lines for products/ machines ranging from simple bathroom faucets to large industrial machines. Although these investigations sometimes involve review of historic documents, such as engineering records, research and development records, sales documents, market surveys and catalogs from the early 1900's to the present day, our clients have found that a primary law firm managing "the product story" reduces the litigation burden on the company employees whose jobs are to design and sell products. This approach also ensures consistency in all cases and avoids the expense of many local law firms duplicating efforts to compile and provide essentially the same information.
The success of any national defense strategy often turns on the opinions of experts. In a mass tort or environmental claim, there may be issues as to whether a plaintiff suffers from any disease at all or, if so, whether it is the disease alleged. The science may establish that the product or exposure at issue simply has no connection to the alleged disease at issue. Even when there is an abstract association between a product issue and a particular disease, the science often provides credible and convincing defenses with respect to a plaintiff's specific alleged exposure scenario. Similarly, product liability actions often turn on issues relating to product design and alleged failure scenarios. As a result, Miles & Stockbridge has created for our clients, exclusive relationships with expert witnesses in many disciplines ranging from industrial hygiene, toxicology, epidemiology, metallurgy, fire cause and origin, occupational health and pulmonology. These experts are retained exclusively for our clients and generally are not shared with other defendants.
A local defense bar in problem jurisdictions can often present its own challenges. They may be burdened by their representation of other clients, insurance carriers or even their relationships with the plaintiff's bar. To address these concerns, Miles & Stockbridge has developed a network of local counsel on which we can rely for our clients' needs. Potential local advantages, such as a cost savings through joint representation and key personal relationships, are considered carefully in our role as national coordinating counsel.
A comprehensive product or product line analysis is of little value if the disclosure and presentation of information obtained is not coordinated in content and timing. Lawsuits pending in multiple jurisdictions are often on different or inconsistent schedules and involve multiple plaintiffs' firms with varying levels of competency and diligence. Our approach controls discovery in unfavorable jurisdictions. We seek to minimize harmful sharing of information, particularly when information between plaintiffs' firms or even local counsel is inconsistent.
Different local counsel may have varying degrees of trial capabilities. A strong local counsel may often be appropriate as the lead trial attorney and may only require monitoring and support with respect to experts and company witnesses. If that is not the case in a particular jurisdiction, Miles & Stockbridge has trial-ready lawyers experienced in mass tort, product liability, and complex medical defense cases in jurisdictions across the country. Aggressive, effective products liability litigation defense is the foundation of our practice. We have won defense verdicts and summary judgment dismissals and secured favorable settlements in even the most complex and emotional liability cases.