The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed with prejudice the injury claims of 12 individual plaintiffs whose proceedings are part of an asbestos multidistrict (MDL) litigation pending before a federal court in Pennsylvania. In re Asbestos Prods. Liab. Litig. (No. VI), Nos. 12-2061, -2063, -2064, -2065, -2066, -2067, -2068, -2069, -2070, -2071, -2072, -3082 (3d Cir., decided May 31, 2013). The appeals court determined, in the context of the defendants’ motions to dismiss, that the MDL court did not abuse its discretion in finding that these plaintiffs had failed to comply with an amended administrative order that has controlled the litigation since 2009. The MDL court interpreted the order as requiring plaintiffs to submit complete exposure histories and, because these 12 plaintiffs either did not do so or failed to show an asbestos-related disease, dismissed their complaints with prejudice after a full briefing of the issues.
Among other matters, the plaintiffs claimed that the MDL court did not properly consider the six factors required to support dismissal. According to the Third Circuit, district courts analyze these factors both when they dismiss cases sua sponte and “in cases like this, where the plaintiffs were put on notice by a motion that dismissal was being sought, and given the opportunity to oppose the motion.” But because “[t]he concerns that are present when a district court dismisses a case sua sponte without giving the plaintiff an opportunity to present arguments against dismissal are lessened when dismissal is a result of a fully briefed motion,” the Third Circuit decided that dismissals following a contested motion may be treated “somewhat differently.… In the context of a massive multidistrict litigation, our ability to satisfy ourselves that the district court did not act arbitrarily, and did consider the relevant factors, is made easier when the dismissal resulted from the defendant’s motion and was challenged by the plaintiff before the district court ruled.”