Article

Disaggregating

Elizabeth Chamblee Burch

This Article explores a central theme that ties together rationales to exit aggregation of tort claims: disaggregating helps to protect litigants’ substantive rights and furthers the public’s faith in a legitimate judicial system. Disaggregating promotes adjudication’s principal purpose, which is to produce outcomes that reflect parties’ substantive entitlements as defined by applicable state laws, but does so in a way that is procedurally fair and psychologically satisfying. Part I introduces the centralization paradox—the practice of centralizing claims before a single judge that the judge typically cannot resolve on an aggregate basis except through private settlement. As Part II elaborates, that practice is at odds with procedural rights, rights that on paper purport to preserve plaintiffs’ preference for trial in their original fora. Part III then chronicles the benefits of allowing plaintiffs to exit the centralized litigation in terms of procedural justice, substantive aims, and democratic ideals. Part IV explains how the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“MDL Panel” or “the Panel”) and the transferor courts might strategically disaggregate national claims for trial after they have been centralized to capture multidistrict litigation’s pretrial efficiency. Finally, Part V considers objections to disaggregating in a procedural system in which accuracy, efficiency, finality, and consistency each compete with one another for top billing.