We have posted before about the MDL process and the importance of the initial decision by the Panel on ordering coordination. Last week the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation declined to consolidate the suits by plaintiffs alleging injuries from da Vinci surgical robots. See In re Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2381 (J.P.M.L., , 8/3/12).
At the time of the decision there were five cases pending in five different federal courts. Defendant Intuitive Surgical, Inc. also supported the motion. The parties even agreed on centralization in the Northern District of California.
But the Panel was not persuaded that Section 1407 centralization would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses or further the just and efficient conduct of this litigation. Each action, said the Panel, alleged personal injuries arising out of alleged defects in the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System. These are "relatively straightforward personal injury or wrongful death actions," and the litigation may focus to a large extent on individual questions of fact concerning the circumstances of each patient’s alleged injuries.
Given the "minimal number of actions currently pending," the proponents of centralization failed to convince the Panel that any factual questions shared by these actions are sufficiently complex or numerous to justify Section 1407 transfer. The court noted that the proponents maintained that this litigation may eventually encompass “hundreds” of cases or “over a thousand” cases. But the Panel declined to accept such predictions, and considered voluntary coordination among the parties and the involved courts of these relatively actions to be a preferable alternative to centralization at this time.