Judicial Panel Agrees Pretrial Coordination Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 is Warranted for Class Actions But Rejects Defense and Plaintiff Recommendations for Request for and Grants Defense Motion for Centralization of Three Class Action Lawsuits
After four class action lawsuits concerning vehicle extended warranties were filed against Volkswagen in California, Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, defense and plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a joint motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, to centralize the lawsuits for pretrial purposes in either the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (defense choice) or the Southern District of Illinois (plaintiffs’ choice). In re Volkswagen & Audi Warranty Extension Litig., 452 F.Supp.2d 1354, 1355 (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. 2006). Based on the briefing and oral argument, the Judicial Panel agreed that pretrial coordination under 28 U.S.C. § 1407, but rejected both of the transferee locations recommended by the parties. With respect to centralization, the Judicial Panel explained that the putative statewide class actions “share factual questions concerning the propriety of Volkswagen’s August 2004 warranty extension/reimbursement program regarding the 1.8 liter turbocharged engines installed on approximately 462,000 Volkswagen and Audi brand vehicles,” id., and that centralization “is necessary in order to eliminate duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary,” id., at 1356. But the Judicial Panel’s transfer order fails to explain why it selected the District of Massachusetts as the appropriate transferee court over the courts proposed by the parties, other than noting that “Judge Joseph Tauro . . . [is] a jurist who has both the time and experience to steer this litigation on a prudent course.” Id.