Suits of US Citizens Consolidated in Washington, D.C. to Promote Efficiency in Litigation

Defendants Malaysia Airlines Berhad and Malaysian Airline System Berhad (collectively, Malaysia Airlines) moved under 28 U.S.C. § 1407 to centralize pretrial proceedings in the pending multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of Illinois. The litigation consists of eight actions pending in various U.S. district courts as well as thirty-two related actions pending in the Northern District of Illinois for a total of forty actions.

The various parties expressed their positions regarding centralization and, if in favor, their preferred court. Ultimately, the Court found that these actions involved common questions of fact, and that centralization in the District Court for the District of Columbia will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote efficiency in the litigation.

Specifically, the Court held that the actions share factual questions arising from the March 8, 2014 disappearance and presumed loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China and that "[c]entralization under Section 1407 will eliminate duplicative discovery, particularly with respect to potential international discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings; and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary."

In doing so, the Court rejected three arguments put forth by the plaintiffs in opposition to centralization. First, the Court rejected their argument that the cases present unique issues such that centralization would not enhance judicial economy. The Court noted that the cause of the loss of Flight MH370 would be similar if not identical in all cases, notwithstanding that jurisdictional and venue arguments may differ.

Second, the Court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the only truly disputed issue is damages because liability under the Montreal Convention was admitted. The Court noted that it is not permitted to pre-judge the merits of the case and determined that there will be liability issues other than the Montreal Convention presented by the parties.

Finally, the Court rejected the plaintiffs' argument for informal consolidation of discovery and held that, given the number of actions, centralization under 28 U.S.C. § 1407 would be preferable. In re: Air Crash over the Southern Indian Ocean, on March 6, 2014, 2016 WL 3101836 (MDL June 2, 2016).