As our firm broadens our practice to include mass torts, I am amazed at the level of planning necessary to litigate and resolve these cases. Good personal injury lawyers must have good systems in place to represent plaintiffs in mass tort cases. Managing all the different clients and defendants requires good process and procedures.
This weekend, I sat through a meeting in preparation for a week long mediation involving a mass tort claim. The number of claimants in the case is about 400. We represent around 150 of them. The number of defendants is somewhere around a dozen. Coordinating all the different lawyers for each party just to get them in a room together for a week is difficult enough. Determining which issues are important to which parties and what information is necessary to discuss and develop these issues is even more difficult.
What I have learned most is that much of the process requires an ability to listen. Understanding the different perspectives of your opponents and your fellow claimants helps in negotiations. Knowledge of all the issues is necessary to get the best result for the clients. It requires a lot of listening to the potential defendants to learn whether they are willing to settle the claim and why. Listening helps in understanding the positions of the other claimants in the case who believe they should get some of whatever money may be available. Listening to our clients and their stories about what happened and their injuries is also integral. By listening, we are better able to understand the dynamics of the case and how all these different moving parts fit together. This understanding will help us in getting the best results for our clients.
We spent about six hours over the weekend in a room with a mediator and counsel for the other claimants in preparation for this week long mediation. It took that long to flesh out all important issues and to decide who will present which part of the different claims. It was a long and tedious process, but at the end of it, it was well worth the time we put in. Hopefully, that time will pay off, and we will be able to have a successful mediation.
Chris and I met with our staff before this meeting. We made sure we were prepared and had a good understanding of the issues. Our staff worked hard to help us get ready. The meeting was a good one. It helped me understand how much planning is necessary to effectively represent multiple plaintiffs in a personal injury claim.