The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that rulings rendered over a period of four years by a multidistrict litigation (MDL) judge to whom the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (panel) had not transferred a number of cases in a roofing-shingle dispute were nevertheless valid. In re IKO Roofing Shingle Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 14-1532 (7th Cir., decided July 2, 2014). The issue arose from the appeal of an order refusing to certify a class. The MDL judge who rendered the order did so two weeks before the panel issued an order transferring all of the cases to this judge, after learning that the assigned judge had reassigned them. Section 1407(b) “gives the Panel exclusive power to select the judge. Its rules provide that, ‘[i]f for any reason the transferee judge is unable to continue those responsibilities, the Panel shall make the reassignment of a new transferee judge.”
According to the Seventh Circuit, if this problem deprived the court of subjectmatter jurisdiction, the appeals court would have to vacate the class-certification ruling and every other order entered during the preceding four years. Because the cases were properly in federal court and properly in the district in which the court sat, the problem is a “case-processing” issue rather than a jurisdictional one, in the court’s view. Given that the litigants did not protest the judge’s role, the court found that they had forfeited “the benefits of case-processing rules.” Thus the court addressed the class-certification issue and determined that the district court erred in denying the motion on the ground that individual issues affecting roofing-shingle failure predominated. The Seventh Circuit found that a number of common liability issues were suited to class-wide resolution, but remanded for the district court to further develop the facts.