The opinion of the court was delivered by: SWEET
In this multidistrict litigation consolidating for pretrial purposes wrongful death actions arising from the July 17, 1996 crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 off Long Island, two versions of an initial pretrial order have been submitted, differing only with respect to the scope of the pretrial proceedings on damages issues. For the reasons set forth below, Pretrial Order Number 1, which has been signed today, will charge the Plaintiffs' Committee with conducting pretrial proceedings involving common legal and factual issues relating to damages on behalf of all plaintiffs.
On October 24, 1996, Catherine Dadi filed the first complaint in the Southern District of New York relating to the Flight 800 crash. She named Trans World Airlines, Inc. ("TWA") and the Boeing Company ("Boeing") as defendants in her wrongful death action. Additional actions relating to the crash were subsequently filed in this and other district courts around the country. Several of these cases also name Hydroaire, Inc. ("Hydroaire") as a defendant.
By order dated February 19, 1997, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, transferred to this Court all wrongful death cases arising from the crash "for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings." Pursuant to this order, additional cases subsequently have been transferred or assigned to this Court. To date, approximately twenty-five cases have been consolidated before this Court.
The plaintiffs in these actions are family members and/or administrators of the estates of passengers who died in the Flight 800 crash.
Defendant Boeing is a corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware, with a principal place of business in the State of Washington. Boeing manufactured the aircraft that crashed on July 17, 1996.
Defendant TWA is a corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware, with a principal place of business in the State of Missouri. TWA was the airline operating the aircraft that crashed on July 17, 1997.
Defendant Hydroaire is a division of defendant Crane Co. ("Crane"), which is a corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware, with a principal place of business in the State of Connecticut. Hydroaire manufactured aircraft components, including a boost fuel pump that was allegedly incorporated into the aircraft that crashed on July 17, 1997.
A preliminary pretrial conference was held on March 7, 1997, at which time the parties agreed to prepare a proposed pretrial order for the consolidated proceedings in this case. By letter dated March 21, 1997, the parties submitted a proposed order that specified areas of dispute. A hearing was held on April 9, 1997 to attempt to resolve these differences.
On April 14, 1997, the parties submitted a second proposed pretrial order incorporating revisions based on the April 9 hearing. However, a dispute remained as to Paragraph IV.C., which defines the scope of the Plaintiffs' Committee's responsibility for conducting pretrial proceedings. Plaintiffs have proposed that the Committee be charged with conducting proceedings related to liability and proceedings "involving legal and factual issues common to all plaintiffs relating to damages." Defendants proposed that the Committee be charged with conducting liability proceedings and proceedings "involving legal and factual issues relating to damages, except for those damage issues that are specific to a particular plaintiff." In subsequent correspondence, the defendants have proposed that the Committee be charged with liability proceedings and proceedings "involving common legal and factual issues relating to damages."
The purpose of 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a) is to "promote the just and efficient conduct" of multidistrict actions, in part by "eliminating the potential for conflicting contemporaneous rulings by coordinate district and appellate courts." See In re Korean Air Lines Disaster, 265 U.S. App. D.C. 39, 829 F.2d 1171, 1179 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (Ginsberg, D.H., concurring), quoting In re Plumbing Fixture Cases, 298 F. Supp. 484, 491-92 (Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. 1968). The transfer order in this case determined that "Centralization . . . is necessary in order to avoid ...