There’s No Place Like Home… Or So You Think
Lawsuits related to defective drugs or medical devices often involve claims brought by hundreds or thousands of individuals who used the drug or device and were injured in a similar way. The good news is that there is power in numbers. But, trying to manage that many cases can wreak havoc on our court system. To ease that burden, and while still giving the injured their day in court, a common practice in federal courts is to consolidate all of the cases in a single court where they can be coordinated and handled by a single judge.
Importantly, this coordination should only involve the pre-trial process. In theory, once that process is finished and a case is ready for trial, the case should be tried in the court where the plaintiff originally filed it because an injured party cannot be forced to have his case heard by the coordinating court. In fact, under court rules, unless the injured party specifically waives the right, the case should be sent back to the original court where the plaintiff chose to file it.
But is your original choice the best place for your case? Before giving in to the “knee-jerk” reaction that “there’s no place like home,” many factors should be considered to determine the most advantageous forum. In most situations the benefits of having your case tried before the coordinating judge outweigh the benefits of having the case returned back to the home court – the legal term for the return of the action is “remanded.”
Convenience to the injured party is the obvious benefit to have the case tried in the original court. Being close to home makes daily attendance and active participation at trial much easier. After all, who doesn’t like to sleep in their own bed! On the other hand, remanding the case back to the original court removes it from the oversight of a judge who has likely spent a number of years becoming well versed in the complicated medical, scientific and legal issues that pharmaceutical and medical device cases involve. The question becomes is the comfort of your own bed at night worth the risk that the local judge won’t truly understand the complex theories that have developed over several years of pre-trial work? The answer depends on you and your lawyer deciding together on how to obtain the best strategic advantage for your case.
Other factors to consider are personal to every individual plaintiff, for example, whether physical limitations, health concerns or family issues might prevent an injured party from traveling to a possibly distant federal court for trial. Depending upon the location, it may also be more difficult for your expert witnesses to appear in person. Although videotaped testimony can be used as an alternative, it may not be as effective with the jury. And, when considering which court may be best for trial, the potential makeup of the jury pool is a very significant factor.
The bottom line? Although an injured party in a coordinated or consolidated drug or medical device case always maintains the right to have the case remanded back to the court where the case was originally filed, that court isn’t always the “best” court. While it is usually true that “there’s no place like home,” sometimes it pays to keep your ruby slippers in the closet and stay where the winds of the court system have blown you.
The postings on this blog were created for general informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or a solicitation to provide legal services. Although we attempt to ensure that the postings are complete, accurate, and current as of the time of publication, we assume no responsibility for their completeness, accuracy, or timeliness. The information in this blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.
This blog may contain links to independent third party websites and services, including social media. We provide these links for your convenience, and you access them at your own risk. We have no control over and do not monitor the content or policies (including privacy policies) of these third-party websites and have no responsibility for, and no liability with respect to, their content, accuracy, or reliability. Unless expressly stated, we do not endorse any of the linked websites or any product, service, or publication referenced herein or therein. We will remove a link to any site from this blog upon request of the linked entity.
We grant permission to readers to link to this blog so long as this blog is not misrepresented. This site is not sponsored or associated with any other site unless so identified.
If you wish for Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A., to consider representing you, please obtain contact information from the Contact Us area of this blog or go to the firm’s website at www.wilentz.com. One of our lawyers will be happy to discuss the possibility of representation with you. However, the authors of Wilentz blogs are licensed only in New Jersey and/or New York and do not wish to represent anyone who viewed this site in a state where the site fails to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state.