The Vioxx litigation has attracted big names from the mass tort bar. And, though he’s not among plaintiffs counsel, per se, the lineup now includes Mr. Civil Action. That, of course, is Jan Schlichtmann. The Massachusetts plaintiffs lawyer became nationally known in the 1980s, when he represented a group of families from Woburn in a toxic tort case. His story was documented in a best-selling book, A Civil Action. John Travolta played Schlichtmann in the movie of the same name.
Schlichtmann doesn’t have any clients in the Vioxx Litigation but he does have plaintiffs’ pundit. Last yet Schlichtmann became co-owner of an Internet broadcasting company. Every Thursday on legalbroadcastnetwork.com, Schlichtmann orchestrates a town hall meeting of plaintiffs lawyers who call in to discuss various political and judicial issues. Recent guests have included leading Vioxx plaintiffs lawyers, including Andy Birchfield, Jr. [“Vioxx Watch,” January]. Schlichtmann says he has invited representatives from Vioxx maker Merck & Co., Inc., to appear on his show, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Not surprisingly, Schlichtmann is sanguine about the plaintiffs lawyers’ ability to put their differences aside and come together for this mass tort. A key test of that cooperation was to come after January 27, when the motion to consolidate federal cases into one venue was scheduled to be heard by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. After the panel makes a decision, plaintiffs lawyers will vie for control of key parts of the federal litigation.
“Everybody is going to be surprised that the lawyers are going to get together and cooperate on a scale that has never been seen before,” says Schlichtmann.
Will that prediction come true? Stay tuned.