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6/27/2023 By Kathrin Hashemi and Jazmin Gelbart

For the second year in a row, KCIC attended the DRI Drug & Medical Device seminar in New Orleans in May. To kick off the three-day seminar, we attended the Young Lawyer Blockbuster Breakout. Co-chaired by Carolyn Riggs from Ice Miller and Jay Mattappally from Irwin Fritchie, the Young Lawyer Blockbuster featured defense attorneys and in-house counsel discussing difficulties and strategies in defending product liability cases.

The breakout was designed to be a series of 20-minute presentations on a variety of topics within drug and medical device litigation. Some covered expansive subjects while others drilled down into more technical aspects of managing complex litigation.

Here are a few themes and highlights that emerged:

  • Managing Large Dockets: Mary Kim (Dechert) and Julianna Coppage (Venable) discussed plaintiff management in MDLs. In recent decades, the concentration of MDL cases has increased dramatically in federal courts—42% of pending civil cases were in MDLs in 2017 compared to 16% about 20 years earlier. The panelists shared some interesting statistics on top cases and offered strategies for how to manage large case dockets. They went into details about plaintiff fact sheets—what information they should contain and how they can help make discovery requests more efficient. In addition, the panelists discussed the importance of using plaintiff fact sheets for bellwether trials.
  • Medical Case Review: Hilary Johnson (Crowell & Moring) and Christian Castile (Reed Smith) conducted a discussion on analyzing medicals for case discovery. They stepped through the iterative, multi-step process of record review as well as spoke about when to involve experts in discussions. Another aspect discussed during the panel was the crucial use of timelines to further understand a plaintiff’s history and to serve as a road map during the discovery process, deposition, and trial.
  • In-House vs. Outside Counsel Relationships: Kendel Vomastek (Bracco Medical Technologies) and Ann Motl (Greenberg Traurig) discussed the contrast between the litigation management needs of small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) versus larger multi-national corporation (MNC) types. The panelists explained that SMBs often have one in-house counsel who is responsible for a multitude of functions, compared to larger MNC types that have a dedicated product liability litigation manager. SMBs seek out insights into ongoing litigation and recommendations on risk reduction strategies. The panel agreed that the SMB/outside counsel relationship best succeeds when outside counsel is proactive in the partnership, but also judicious about communicating information.
  • The Role of Masters: Ashley Saferight (Tucker Ellis) and Kaeanna Dzialo (Ulmer & Berne) focused on the usage of masters in litigation. They explained the history of the role and shared practical tips on appointment of masters. In 2003, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 53, changed the term “special master” to “master” as part of the effort to expand the scope of the role. The modification of the role allows for private individuals to assist in additional aspects of litigation, including e-Discovery and matters of privilege. Given the complexity of drug and medical device litigation, it can be helpful to have a master involved; however, it is important to have conversations with your client early to better understand their position and what specific duties should be provided consent.

The breakout wrapped up with an in-house counsel panel, where participants shared strategies and advice on how to best support in-house counsel. It was a helpful way to pull together the wide array of information offered during the sessions. Next year, we are excited that the DRI Drug & Medical Device seminar will take place in our home city of Washington, D.C. In 2024, the Young Lawyer Blockbuster will be co-chaired by Taryn Harper from Greenberg Traurig and Michael Leard from Nutter, and we look forward to seeing what topics are discussed.

Kathrin Hashemi

About Kathrin Hashemi

Kathrin Hashemi has partnered with her clients on a variety of matters including litigation management, insurer billing arrangements, claims administration, and asbestos bankruptcy trusts.  Much of her work has allowed her the opportunity to have a more holistic understanding of the litigation at hand, while simultaneously being able to solve complex problems for her clients.

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Jazmin Gelbart

About Jazmin Gelbart

Jazmin has utilized her vast technical, data analytics, and team management skills to lead a variety of projects at KCIC. Since joining KCIC in 2018, she has participated in and led projects in claims administration, insurance coverage litigation, insurance policy reviews, insurance allocations, and future liability forecasts for asbestos and talc defendants.

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