The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has decided to consolidate at least 10 class action lawsuits filed over Chinese wood flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators that allegedly contained toxic levels of formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).
What’s the Problem?
The JPML issued the transfer order Friday, June 12, saying:
“After considering the argument of counsel, we find that the actions in this litigation involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the (U.S. District Court for the) Eastern District of Virginia will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation,” wrote Sarah S. Vance, chair of the panel. “All actions involve common factual questions regarding whether Lumber Liquidators falsely represented that its Chinese-manufactured laminate flooring complied with California Air Resources Board standards and other legal requirements governing the emissions of formaldehyde.”
Centralization is intended to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid inconsistent rulings by different judges, and to serve the best interests of all parties involved in the litigation. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits allege that their homes are “markedly less valuable” after having Lumber Liquidators Chinese floors installed.
Although only 10 class actions are currently affected by the MDL, more than 100 similar lawsuits could eventually be included in the litigation.
Vance disregarded the suggestion by some plaintiffs who supported transferring the complaints to other districts that the MDL wasn’t suited to the speed of the Eastern District of Virginia’s “rocket docket,” which is noted for its speedy disposition of cases.
“When pressed at oral argument, however, plaintiffs failed to articulate precisely how proceeding at an expeditious pace would prejudice the parties,” Vance said. “Further, centralization allows for the coordination of this litigation with a securities action against Lumber Liquidators that was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia in November 2013, which has grown to include allegations concerning formaldehyde emissions from Chinese-made laminate flooring.”
District Judge Anthony Trenga will oversee the litigation, according to the JPML.