JPML grants centralization for Society, but DENIES centralization for Lloyd’s London, Cincinnati, Travelers, and Hartford insurance companies.

WASHINGTON- The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation granted centralization for Society Insurance Company; however, centralization was denied for Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, Cincinnati Insurance Co., Travelers, and Hartford.

The JPML granted centralization for Society Insurance Company based on the insurer’s common policy language due to Society being a regional carrier that uses standard forms. The JPML’s Oct. 2 order stated, “[w]ere this litigation larger in geographic scope and if it involved more state laws (such as in some of the other show cause dockets before us), this might be a more persuasive argument because the transferee judge would be tasked with managing a much more complicated litigation;” however, “there are 34 actions against Society, pending in six nearby states, the majority in one district,” thus allowing centralization to be the most efficient resolution for Society. The JPML has assigned the MDL to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois with Hon. Edmond E. Chang as the presiding Judge.

In contrast, the JPML order denying centralization for Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, Cincinnati Insurance Co., Travelers, and Hartford, ruled that “efficiency is best obtained outside of an MDL” and explained that they believe this is the quickest resolution for these cases. The Panel noted that the cases here are much more complex, both in geographical score and policy language, when compared to the cases against Society. They further explained that if the actions were centralized, “the transferee court would have to establish a pretrial structure to manage numerous plaintiffs, many of which are pursuing distinct theories of liability,” along with a need to find common language and policies among the numerous cases that have been filed. 

For the four denied MDL’s, the JPML concluded, “Rather than have one judge attempt to organize and resolve the core policy interpretation issues, it strikes us that allowing the various transferor courts to decide these questions will result in quicker and more efficient resolution of this litigation . . . . Furthermore, should plaintiffs’ claims survive dispositive rulings on the policy interpretation questions, discovery appears relatively straightforward. While some of this discovery may well be common, much of the discovery will be plaintiff and property-specific. In these circumstances, it is more likely the actions will reach an expeditious resolution if they remain in the transferor courts.”