This seminar will examine the evolution, future, and unique problems posed by the "mega-settlement" in modern American law. Over the past 40 years, American courts and lawyers have been increasingly challenged by the special difficulties presented by the litigation of mass torts, such as those involving the BP oil spill, Vioxx, the diet drug Fen-Phen, asbestos, Agent Orange, and the 9/11 attacks. The high-stakes, multibillion dollar settlements of nationwide litigation involving thousands of plaintiffs have forced attorneys (for both the plaintiffs and defendants) and the courts to rethink notions of individual justice, and the zealous and ethical representation of clients. Some of the topics to be covered include: the variety of structures for resolving mass tort litigation, including the "quasi-class action"; the changing role of the court and the proper limits on judicial power; ethical issues confronting attorneys (for both plaintiffs and defendants); how best to compensate attorneys (for both plaintiffs and defendants); and various proposals for reform.
Students should not sign up for this seminar if they do not expect to be able to attend all seminar meetings.
Pre-requisites: Professional Responsibility, which may be taken during the same semester.
Requirements: Research paper and several short "response" papers on the weekly reading assignment.