mass tort litigation

Multidistrict Litigation

A federal case management procedure in which a federal panel transfers several (or many) complex civil cases involving one or more common questions of fact to one federal district court (called the MDL court). The MDL court coordinates and oversees pretrial proceedings, signs off on settlement of some cases, and dismisses others. All remaining cases are sent back to the original court of filing for trial. MDL works well when plaintiffs nationwide file lawsuits against the same defendants, alleging the same issues. Types of litigation that lend themselves to MDL include cases against pharmaceutical drug companies, lawsuits based on an airplane crash, securities fraud cases, and some employment cases.

Frolic and Detour

Employee conduct that is outside the scope of employment and is undertaken purely for the employee's own benefit. Although an employer is generally liable for the acts of its employees, an employer is not liable for damages employees cause while on a frolic and detour. For example, a delivery company could be liable for injuries one of its drivers causes while racing to make a delivery; it probably would not be liable if the same driver shot a guard while robbing a bank on his lunch hour.

Foreseeable Risk

A likelihood of injury or damage that a reasonable person should be able to anticipate in a given set of circumstances. Foreseeable risk is a common affirmative defense put up by defendants in lawsuits for negligence, essentially claiming that the plaintiff should have thought twice before taking a risky action. Signs that warn "use at your own risk" do not bar lawsuits over injuries or damages from risks that weren't foreseeable.

Exculpatory Clause

A provision in a lease that absolves the landlord in advance from responsibility for all damages, injuries, or losses occurring on the property, including those caused by the landlord's actions. Most states have laws that void exculpatory clauses in rental agreements, which means that a court will not enforce them.

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