New Jersey Replaces “Mass Torts” with “Multicounty Litigation”
In a move that will likely please defendants facing consolidated litigation in New Jersey, the New Jersey Supreme Court has approved changes to Rule 4:38A — the New Jersey Court Rule that authorizes the centralized management of similar cases — that will term such cases “multicounty litigation” instead of a “mass tort.” (A complete copy of all forthcoming changes to the New Jersey Court Rules, including Rule 4:38A, is here.) This change in nomenclature, which is effective as of September 4, 2012, does not provide any substantive change to the criteria and procedures under Rule 4:38A for designation of cases for centralized management. Nevertheless, to the extent that defendants and their counsel have suggested over the years that the term “mass tort” may negatively imply that a product involved in such cases is defective before there is any judicial determination of that claim, and that the term “mass tort” may increase the number of claims this change should be a welcome one to defendants.
Addendum: Following the announcement of the impending nomenclature change to Rule 4:38A, the Administrative Office of the Courts re-issued the corresponding “Multicounty Litigation Guidelines” — formerly known as the “Mass Tort Guidelines.” The only change to the guidelines, as to the rule, pertains to the change in nomenclature.