Unlike a class action settlement, which, if approved, binds all class members who do not opt out, a mass tort settlement in an MDL case does not bind anyone; each client must either agree to settle their case or continue to litigate. But as a practical matter, in many mass tort cases, the claims are not viable if they must be litigated on a case-by-case basis, and lawyers will often decline to continue representing clients who do not go along with the settlement (is that tactic/threat ethical?). Do district judges have the authority to approve or disapprove such broad settlements, or are such rulings merely advisory opinions with no legal impact? If they do not have such authority, should they, and if so are the Rule 23 criteria appropriate for mass tort settlements? In addition, many lawyers settle their inventories of cases for a lump sum, with the defendant (often by its own choice) having no say in how the money is divided. Should the formula by which lawyers decide how the money is divided be subject to court approval, even if the overall settlement is not? Finally, we will discuss a case involving a claim that in a mass settlement of Roundup cases, Bayer refused to pay the claim of a non-U.S. citizen and her lawyers abandoned her. Is this another reason why the MDL court should have review powers (the case was filed in another district)?


  • Lynn Baker, University of Texas


  • Hon. Freda Wolfson (ret.), Partner; Chair, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Lowenstein Sandler LLP
  • Sheila Birnbaum, Dechert
  • Michael Kirkpatrick, Public Citizen
  • Aimee Wagstaff, Wagstaff Law Firm

Time: 2-3 p.m. ET

Location: James F. Humphreys Complex Litigation Center, GWU LAW, 2000 H Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20052

*Disclaimer: This event is open to the public but requires a registration fee.