New Judge for New Jersey’s Multicounty Litigation Program
This week saw a major snowstorm for parts of New Jersey, bringing more than two feet of snow in some areas of the state (including my driveway). This week also saw the assignment of a new judicial face to New Jersey’s Multicounty Litigation cases.
Many of you are likely aware of the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, or JPML, which can decide to consolidate and transfer cases pending in the federal district courts for consolidated pre-trial management by a single District Judge. There have been and continue to be many such consolidated litigations (sometimes referred to as “MDLs”), including in the pharmaceutical and medical device area, over the years under the auspices of the JPML, and many of us here at Goldberg Segalla have experience handling such cases.
As many of you are also likely aware, some states have similar procedures for centralization and/or consolidation of cases that can operate like so-called “mini MDLs.” New Jersey is one of those states. Under New Jersey’s Multicounty Litigation rules, the New Jersey Supreme Court can designate cases for centralized management and assignment to an MCL judge sitting in one of three counties: Atlantic, Bergen, and Middlesex.
Earlier this week, there was a change in Middlesex County with Judge James F. Hyland’s retirement. Judge Hyland was the MCL judge in Middlesex County to whom most pending MCL litigations in that county were assigned (asbestos cases, New Jersey’s oldest MCL litigation, continue to be assigned to Judge Ana C. Viscomi). With Judge Hyland’s retirement, the New Jersey Supreme Court assigned Judge Bruce Kaplan to succeed Judge Hyland as MCL judge. As a result, effective February 1, 2021, Judge Kaplan took over management responsibility for litigations involving AlloDerm Regenerative Tissue Matrix, Taxotere/Docetaxel, Zostravax, Levaquin, Risperdal/Seroquel/Zyprexa, Reglan, Propecia, and Fosamax, and he is of course eligible to receive additional MCLs in the future if/when the New Jersey Supreme Court should decide to do so.
Judge Kaplan, a former prosecutor, was initially appointed to the bench in 2014 by then-Governor Chris Christie. Information on the New Jersey Judiciary website shows that he was first assigned to the family division in Essex County, and then reassigned to the family division in Mercer County in 2015 and then to the family division in Middlesex County in 2016. He was then assigned to the civil division in Middlesex County in 2019, and he was reappointed with tenure at the end of 2020.
Although litigation, including MCL litigation, has been impacted by COVID-19 (like most everywhere else in the country), cases are still proceeding. Undoubtedly, at some point Judge Kaplan will be called upon to rule on an issue that may have broader implications beyond the particular MCL cases in which the issue arises. When that happens, we look forward to sharing our thoughts with you.