579 Mass Torts

Mass Torts is a course designed to introduce students to the theory, practice, and strategy associated with the substantive law, procedure, and resolution of a wide variety of mass tort litigations.  Most mass torts are consolidated by the Judicial Panel on Multi- District Litigation, and the organization of the course is based on the life of a case in MDL: origins, pleadings, referral to a transferee judge, e-discovery, fact discovery, expert discovery, motion practice, test cases, pre-trial hearings, trials, appellate practice, remands, settlement, and claims resolution facilities.  There will also be substantial emphasis on larger themes and issues that are implicated by mass torts in the relationship between federal and state courts, in competing theories of liability and procedure, in the interaction of litigation, bankruptcy, and administrative processes, in the roles of public and private litigation and attorneys, in the respective interests of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of federal and state governments, and in a variety of competing economic, jurisprudential, policy, and practical concerns.  The course will be updated during the semester with emerging developments in currently pending mass tort litigation including opioids, asbestos, and Roundup.  The readings are prepared specifically for this course and will consist of excerpts from judicial opinions, pleadings, briefs, motions, and other original source material as well as excerpts from law review articles, press accounts, and books.  The grade will be based on a take home examination consisting of short answer and essay questions.  

Course Areas of Practice
Course Type
Seminar
Learning Outcomes
Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law
Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context
Exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities to clients and the legal system
2019
Fall 2019
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

579.01 3
  • Final Exam
  • Class participation
Francis McGovern M/W 4:00-5:25 PM 4044

Mass Torts is a course designed to introduce students to the theory, practice, and strategy associated with the substantive law, procedure, and resolution of a wide variety of mass tort litigations.  Most mass torts are consolidated by the Judicial Panel on Multi- District Litigation, and the organization of the course is based on the life of a case in MDL: origins, pleadings, referral to a transferee judge, e-discovery, fact discovery, expert discovery, motion practice, test cases, pre-trial hearings, trials, appellate practice, remands, settlement, and claims resolution facilities.  There will also be substantial emphasis on larger themes and issues that are implicated by mass torts in the relationship between federal and state courts, in competing theories of liability and procedure, in the interaction of litigation, bankruptcy, and administrative processes, in the roles of public and private litigation and attorneys, in the respective interests of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of federal and state governments, and in a variety of competing economic, jurisprudential, policy, and practical concerns.  The course will be updated during the semester with emerging developments in currently pending mass tort litigation including opioids, asbestos, and Roundup.  The readings are prepared specifically for this course and will consist of excerpts from judicial opinions, pleadings, briefs, motions, and other original source material as well as excerpts from law review articles, press accounts, and books.  The grade will be based on a take home examination consisting of short answer and essay questions.  

Pre/Co-requisites
None
Enrollment Restrictions
None
2016
Spring 2016
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Day/Times Room

579.01 2 Thomas B. Metzloff, Jonathan B. Wiener Th 3:45-5:35 PM 4044

This seminar will invite participants to take an in-depth look at the combination of issues raised by complex mass tort lawsuits: issues of substantive tort law, civil procedure, litigation strategy, lawyer-client relationships, the economics of settlement, ethics, the judicial role, and societal impacts.

The course will explore a selection of celebrated mass tort lawsuits, such as those involving the Buffalo Creek disaster, the Woburn leukemia case, Agent Orange, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, cigarette smoking, the Dalkon Shield, Bendectin, MTBE, and asbestos.

The course will employ a "case method" -- not the typical study of appellate decisions on particular issues but a "full" case method that examines entire cases, from dispute to filing to trial to appeals and beyond. The readings are mainly books about the cases-- historical accounts that put the litigation in context. These books include Gerald Stern, The Buffalo Creek Disaster; Jonathan Harr, A Civil Action; Peter Schuck, Agent Orange on Trial; and David Lebedoff, Cleaning Up. Judicial opinions and scholarly commentary will be assigned as supplementary readings. Readings will therefore be more extensive but less dense than typical law school courses.

Note: Students may enroll in an additional credit in order to expand the required 15 page paper into 30 pages with the aim of using the paper to satisfy the JD Writing Requirement. Students wishing to take this option should enroll in Law 579W Mass Torts Writing Credit. *LAW 579W MUST be added no later than 7th week of class.*

Syllabus: File 579.01.Spring2016-syllabus.docx

Pre/Co-requisites

There are no formal prerequisites, but students may find this seminar especially enriching if taken after or during courses such as: Appellate Practice, Complex Civil Litigation, Dispute Resolution, Economic Analysis of Law, Federal Courts, Trial Practice

Enrollment Restrictions
None

*Please note that this information is for planning purposes only, and should not be relied upon for the schedule for a given semester. Faculty leaves and sabbaticals, as well as other curriculum considerations, will sometimes affect when a course may be offered.