First Annual Mass-Tort MDL Flash Points

Challenges for the Next Generation of Transferee MDL Judges (Invitation-Only) Conference

This conference is open by invitation only. If you have experience in a mass-tort MDL leadership position and are interested in an invitation, please send a request to be invited along with a short description of your MDL experience here

Join the James F. Humphreys Complex Litigation Center for a historic, invitation-only conference with 50 federal judges and 100 plaintiff and defense lawyers at GW Law. No conference held by the government or academic or other institution brings together so many federal judges and practicing lawyers to focus on a single litigation issue of national importance.



This conference will help shape the decision-making of the new generation of MDL transferee judges, arming them with information about how they can most effectively and fairly manage these actions, informed by the wisdom of experienced MDL judges, practicing counsel, and learned scholars.

MDLs have replaced class actions as the principal mode of aggregate litigation. But unlike class actions, which are governed by specific Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, MDLs have no official rules to guide the bench and bar. MDL transferee judges are compelled to fashion new practices and procedures out of whole cloth in every MDL to address the unique circumstances and challenges presented by their assigned MDL. The judges' task is all the more difficult because federal judges assigned MDLs most often have never previously handled one. By bringing together practicing lawyers, scholars, and judges, all can learn from each other on how best to manage the difficult issues arising in them.

Not only is this conference intended to prepare potential new MDL transferee judges, but equally importantly, it will provide information to more judges on an issue that is affecting the entire judiciary. MDLs' impact steadily grows, and mega mass-tort MDLs now represent more than one-half of all civil cases pending in the federal courts. The recent 3M MDL alone added 230,000 case filings, while two other MDLs have an additional 200,000 unfiled cases waiting in the wings and a third MDL, Paraquat, promises yet another 100,000 actions. The total number of actions from these four MDLs dwarfs the annual average of 300,000 civil case filings in federal courts and the impact is felt throughout the judiciary. One small example is that the civil-case filings per judgeship jumped from 423 in 2019 to 682 in 2021, primarily because of the filings in the 3M MDL.

On the first day of the two-day conference, six panels of plaintiff and defense lawyers will address recurring MDL issues moderated by preeminent law school professors, identifying MDL practices that were successful and practices resulted in unforeseen adverse consequences. The lawyers attending the conference will have an opportunity to add their own insights about other practices and procedures.

Only judges will attend the second day. Ten experienced MDL judges will respond in six panels moderated by the professors to the concerns raised the preceding day by the lawyers. The judges will then drill down into specific issues, led by the law professors.

The conference is held under the Chatham House Rule: "(P)articipants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), or that of any other participant, may be revealed."

The conference is expected to be held annually and is designed to provide a helpful forum for the development of best practices, academic scholarship, and discussion at the judges' annual fall Breakers conference. The conference is made possible by lawyer conference registration fees and the generous contributions of sponsors.


The registration fee for Thursday’s one-day conference for lawyers is $1,199, and includes conference materials, a continental breakfast, coffee breaks, lunch, grab-and-go snacks on Thursday, and a dinner on Thursday evening.


CLE will be applied for in New Jersey. Attorneys will receive a “Certificate of Attendance” and a completed “Uniform Application for Accreditation” form after the conference in order to submit CLE hours for your state.

Day One

7:30 am − 8:30 am: Breakfast (Jack Morton Auditorium)

8:30 am −  8:45 am: Welcoming Remarks

8:45 am − 9:45 am: Panel 1 − Appointment of Steering and Other Committees; Common Benefit Fund; Attorney Fees from Parallel State Actions

  • Elizabeth Cabraser, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein
  • Joe Rice, Motley Rice
  • Navan Ward, Beasley Allen Brent Wisner, Baum Hedlund


9:50 am − 10:50 am: Panel 2 − Preemption and Daubert Motions; Third-Party Financing

  • John Beisner, Skadden Arps
  • Mark Cheffo, Dechert

10:50 am − 11:05 am: Break

11:05 am − 12:15 pm: Panel 3 − Plaintiff/Defendant Facts Sheets; Census Orders; Discovery; ESI Protocols

  • John Rosenthal, Winston Strawn
  • Susan Sharko, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath
  • Mark Smith, Syngenta Corporation

12:15 pm − 1:45 pm: Lunch

1:45 pm − 2:45 pm: Panel 4 − Bellwether Selections

  • Andy Birchfield, Beasley Allen
  • William Gage, Butler Snow
  • Mark Lanier, Lanier Firm
  • Troy Rafferty, Levin, Papantonio, Rafferty 
  • Brennan Torregrossa, GSK

2:50 pm − 3:50 pm: Panel 5 − Judicial Approaches to Settlement; Bard IVC Filter Remand Order

  • William Beausoleil, Hughes Hubbard & Reed
  • James Holston, Merck

3:50 pm − 4:05 pm: Break

4:05 pm −  5:15 pm: Panel 6 − State Courts Coordination; Claims Administration Process; Centralized Information Platform

  • Richard Arsenault, Neblett, Beard & Arsenault
  • Sheila Birnbaum, Dechert
  • Christopher Guth, Bayer Corporation
  • Mark King, Ankura Consulting Group
  • Dustin Mire, Postlewaite & Netterville

6 pm − 7 pm: Reception

7 pm − 9 pm: Dinner

Day Two

7:30 am − 8:30 am: Breakfast (Jacob Burns Moot Courtroom) 

8:30 am − 9:20 am: Panel 1 − Appointment of Steering Committee and Other Committees; Common Benefit Fund; Attorney Fees from Parallel State Actions

  • Judges (TBA) 

9:25 am − 10:15 am: Panel 2 − Preemption and Daubert Motions; Third-Party Financing

  •  Judges (TBA)

10:15 am − 10:30 am: Break

10:30 am − 11:20 am: Panel 3 − Plaintiff/Defendant Facts Sheets; Census Orders; Discovery; ESI Protocols

  • Judges (TBA)

11:25 am − 12:20 pm: Panel 4 − Bellwether Selections

  •  Judges (TBA)

12:20 pm − 1:30 pm:  Lunch

1:30 pm −  2:20 pm: Panel 5 − Judicial Approaches to Settlement; Bard IVC Filter Remand Order

  • Judges (TBA)

2:25 pm − 3:15 pm:  Panel 6 − State Courts Coordination; Claims Administration Process; Centralized Information Platform

  • Judges (TBA) 


  • Hon. Eldon Fallon, ED Louisiana
  • Hon. Charles Breyer, ND California
  • Hon. Robert Miller, ND Indiana
  • Hon. Eduardo Robreno, ED Pennsylvania
  • Hon. Casey Rodgers, ND Florida 
  • Hon. Edmund Sargus, ND Ohio 
  • Hon. John Tunheim, D Minnesota 
  • Hon. Vince Chhabria, ND California



  • Adam Levitt, DiCello Levitt 
  • Dianne Nast, Nast Law
  • Chris Seeger, Seeger Weiss 
  • Joe Rice, Motley Rice
  • Jacksy Bilsborrow, Weitz & Luxenberg 
  • James Gotz, Hausfeld
  • Troy Rafferty, Levin Law
  • Elizabeth Cabraser, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein
  • Lori Andrus, Andrus Anderson 
  • Andy Birchfield, Beasley Allen
  • Karen Barth Menzies, Gibbs Law Group


  • John Beisner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  • Jim Holston, Merck
  • Chris Guth Bayer
  • Brennan Torregrossa, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Ted Mayer, Hughes Hubbard 
  • Sheila Birnbaum, Dechert 
  • John Rosenthal, Winston & Strawn     
  • Mark Cheffo, Dechert
  • Susan Sharko, Faeger Drinker Biddle & Reath
  • William Gage, Butler Snow 


  • Dustin Mire, Postlethwaite & Netterville
  • Ken Feinberg

Law Professors

  • Prof. Baker, Lynn, Univ. of Texas
  • Prof. Marcus, Rick, Hastings
  • Prof. Hensler, Deborah, Stanford
  • Prof. Tidmarsh, Jay, Notre Dame
  • Prof. Fitzpatrick, Brian, Vanderbilt
  • Prof. Trangsrud, GW Law



  • Hon. Adelman, Lynn, ED Wisconsin
  • Hon. Arleo, Madeline, D New Jersey
  • Hon. Baker, Kristine, ED Arkansas
  • Hon. Bates, John, District of Columbia
  • Hon. Baylson, Michael, ED Pennsylvania 
  • Hon. Beetlestone, Wendy, ED Pennsylvania 
  • Hon. Berg, Terrence, ED Minnesota
  • Hon. Berger, Irene, SD West Virginia
  • Hon. Blake, Catherine, D Maryland
  • Hon. Blakey, John, ND Illinois
  • Hon. Bough, Steven, WD Missouri
  • Hon. Byron, Paul, MD Florida
  • Hon. Cain, James, WD Louisiana
  • Hon. Childs, Michelle, D South Carolina
  • Hon. Cooke, Marcia, SD Florida
  • Hon. Conrad, Robert, WD Virginia
  • Hon. Conti, Joy, WD Pennsylvania 
  • Hon. Dalton, Roy, MD Florida
  • Hon. Deavers, Elizabeth Preston, SD Ohio
  • Hon. Donnelly, Ann, ED New York
  • Hon. Doughty, Terry, WD Louisiana
  • Hon. Drain, Gershwin, ED Michigan
  • Hon. Eagles, Catherine, MD North Carolina
  • Hon. Falk, Mark, D New Jersey
  • Hon. Fitzwater, Sydney, ND Texas 
  • Hon. Gibney, John ED Virginia
  • Hon. Hanks, George, SD Texas 
  • Hon. Hicks, Maury, WD Louisiana
  • Hon. Hogan, Tom, District of Columbia 
  • Hon. Howell, Beryl, D of Columbia
  • Hon. Hall, Janet, D of Connecticut
  • Hon. Higginbotham, Patrick, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals 
  • Hon. Kallon, Abdul, ND Alabama
  • Hon. Jackson, Brian, MD Louisiana
  • Hon. Jones, Gary, ND Florida
  • Hon. Mazzant, Amos, ED Texas
  • Hon. Pauley, William, SD NY
  • Hon. Smith, Brooks, Third Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Hon. Watson, Michael, SD Ohio

Founding Patron
Western Alliance Bank (2020-21)

Premier Patron
Technology Concepts & Design, Inc. (TCDI) (2020-21)

Elite Patron
Ankura Consulting Group
The Moskowitz Law Firm

Morgan & Morgan

Contributor Sponsor
Postlethwaite & Netterville
Massive Lien Resolution

Collaborator Sponsor
Angeion Group, Collaborator Sponsor


James F. Humphreys Complex Litigation Center