Judicial Panel Grants Defense Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 but Rejects Defense Request to Transfer Class Actions to District of New Jersey
Twelve putative class action lawsuits were filed in seven federal district courts (four in Missouri, two in Kansas and Oklahoma, and one in California, Kentucky, New Jersey and Tennessee) against more than 100 oil companies, distributors and retailers “relating to the sale of motor fuel at temperatures greater than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.” In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Prac. Litig., 493 F.Supp.2d 1365, 2007 WL 1806043, *1 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. 2007). Defense attorneys for three oil companies filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in the District of New Jersey. All plaintiff lawyers agreed that pretrial coordination was appropriate, as did dozens of additional defense attorneys, but they could not agree upon the appropriate transferee court, “variously support[ing] selection of the Northern District of California, the Southern District of Florida, the District of Kansas, the Western District of Missouri, the District of New Jersey, the Western District of Oklahoma or the Middle District of Tennessee as transferee district.” Id. Defense attorneys for two oil companies opposed centralization at all, but alternatively argued that the class actions should be transferred to the District of New Jersey, id.
The Judicial Panel granted the defense motion to centralize the class action lawsuits, rejecting “the arguments of the two opposing defendants that the lack of identity among the defendants in these actions warrants a different result.” In re Motor Fuel, at *1. However, the Panel selected the District of Kansas because “no district stands out as the geographic focal point for this nationwide docket” and, accordingly, the Judicial Panel selected “a transferee judge with the time and experience to steer this litigation on a prudent course and sitting in a district with the capacity to handle this litigation.” Id., at *2.