Recently, an application was made to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate and centralize all existing federal litigation between policyholders and insurance carriers respecting income loss resulting from the measures taken to arrest the global, novel coronavirus pandemic. The issues are briefed and will be argued to the Panel in late July. The consensus seems to be that if the insurance industry opposes consolidation, centralization is less likely, and a little surprisingly, when they filed their briefs, industry opposed the application for centralization, leading the policyholders represented by the applicants to respond that the opposition was, in essence, nuts, because the issues raised were actually undeniably uniform, considering that the policies contain forms whose use is — and this is irrefutably true — insensitive, by and large, to borders.
On the other hand, who is kidding who? At bottom, the application is an effort on the part of a team of lawyers who specialize in mass tort litigation to monopolize the most profitable species of tort litigation since someone thought of making the Plaintiffs in cigarette litigation, States, ultimately producing unprecedented legal fees. Therefore, it surprised no one that some lawyers representing policyholders opposed this consolidation. At any rate, while it is the Panel’s stock and trade to do very big things, as the opioid MDL proves conclusively, this decision will have a giant, truly global impact. As a rule, the Panel tends to issue decisions on applications fairly rapidly, and why not: all Panel decisions tend to be fairly short explanations of the reasons consolidation did or did not make sense given the relatively few principles of law that shape Panel action. Therefore, a decision is expected in August.
By: Alan Dean Weinberger