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YAZ: New Jersey State Court Case Consolidated

On November 10, 2009, we wrote that New Jersey state court Assignment Judge Donald Volkert, Jr. formally requested consolidation of the YAZ, Yasmin, and Ocella birth control lawsuits in New Jersey state courts. In an order dated February 9, 2010 (and posted to the New Jersey website on February 18, 2010), Chief Justice Stuart Rabner ordered that all pending and future state court actions regarding the birth control pills would be designated as mass tort and assigned to Bergen County Judge Brian R. Martinotti. Furthermore, Judge Martinotti will oversee those cases and may return them to their original counties as he sees fit (presumably for individual trials after common work is completed).

Judge Martinotti has been busy at work and has already filed a twelve-page initial case management order. Interestingly, in the order’s preamble, he cites the Manual for Complex Litigation, which is commonly used for MDL proceedings, but has wide use for even state-run mass litigation. Here are the order’s highlights:

  • The initial conference set for April 26, 2010, at 10:00 a.m.
  • Counsel are required to confer regarding the judge’s proposed agenda
  • Counsel are required to submit brief statements regarding the status of the cases
  • All motions have stayed.
  • Discovery may proceed, and automatic discovery of certain matters is required to begin immediately
  • Parties are encouraged to agree on electronic discovery protocols, document depositories, and protective orders
  • Parties are limited to three pro hac vice attorneys, except for good cause

As with all consolidated mass torts, this will go a long way toward streamlining the process, preventing duplicative discovery and inconsistent rulings. Everyone wins.