No, that does not reference litigation involving underfunded little guys represented by small firms going up against corporate behemoths represented by white-shoe counsel. That would be trite. In MDL 2406, In re Blue Cross Blue Shield Antitrust Litigation, it references the battle between small plaintiffs’ firms and big plaintiffs’ firms for control of the case. And defendants’ counsel are surely watching (and running the meter) with great amusement as it develops.
Let’s recap. imPaneled reported last month that class action titans Boies Schiller and Cohen Milstein were contesting leadership in seven antitrust actions against Blue Cross entities consolidated in the N.D. Ala. Later that week, plaintiffs represented by Montgomery firm Davis & Taliaferro (“D & T”) petitioned the Panel to centralize two arguably similar cases from other districts in that court–one that Boies Schiller had filed in the W.D.N.C., and one that Ball & Scott had filed in the W.D. Tenn.
Evidently unbeknownst to D & T, Ball & Scott also had a case pending against the Blues in the M.D. La. Sensing an opportunity to grab a seat at a larger table, Ball & Scott’s local counsel told the Panel that centralization is appropriate, but pressed the E.D. La., where, by virtue of an astonishing coincidence, another firm had filed a complaint that very day.
Boies Schiller and Cohen Milstein predictably opposed the disruption of their carefully laid plans (though BSF threw in a plug for the W.D.N.C., so that it might maintain control of the proceedings even if the Panel acts). As for the Blues? Well, most Panel observers know that, all things being equal, when centralization is in doubt (as it is here), most defendants oppose it–obviously for reasons of justice and efficiency, but perhaps also because it enables underfunded plaintiffs and their firms to pool their resources for the common benefit.
But all is not equal in this case. Defendants are faced with two possibilities as to the N.D. Ala. actions: (1) plaintiffs led by united counsel, with high-powered firms in the lead; or (2) bickering among plaintiffs’ counsel over leadership, followed by some degree of additional bickering over the course of the proceeding if firms from more than one group are given co-lead positions. Option (2), of course, falls into each of the two broad categories that form the pillars of defense strategy: Obstruction and Delay (cue singing angels).
That’s a long way of saying the Blues favor centralization. The ones represented by Kirkland & Ellis were the most verbose about it. There will likely be little further excitement before the Dallas Panelpalooza in late November. But imPaneled will be all over it if there is.