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Panel Seeks to Streamline, Consolidate Oil Spill Litigation

August 3, 2010

The work of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has been in the spotlight recently because of filings related to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The JPML has played a key role in coordinating and consolidating large-scale federal civil litigation since the panel was created by Congress more than 40 years ago.

In that time, the panel has considered more than 300,000 cases and millions of claims in litigation stemming from  airplane crashes, hotel fires, securities fraud, and harm allegedly caused by asbestos and prescription drugs.

The seven judges who serve on the JPML are appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States. They determine when to transfer and centralize civil actions pending in different federal districts. Such transfers of cases that contain sufficiently common questions of act avoid duplication of discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve resources of the parties, counsel, and the Judiciary.

The choice of venue for BP litigation will be important –given how emotionally charged  many of the BP lawsuits are likely to be.  BP wants the cases to be heard in Houston, while many of the plaintiffs would prefer New Orleans.

Learn more about the JPML and its work here.

You can read the interview with U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn of Louisville, Ky., who chairs the panel. Judge Heyburn also provides a more in-depth look at the JPML’s work in a law review article (pdf).

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