CHARLESTON – The process of bringing a Multi-District Litigation case to southern West Virginia isn't an easy one.
In fact, when U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin recently was handed the MDL regarding the drug Digitek, it was only the third time an MDL had been shipped to the Mountain State.
Wheeling attorney Teresa Toriseva, one of the plaintiffs lawyers involved in the case, explained that a panel of five federal judges called the Joint Panel on Multi-District Litigation meets once a month at various locations across the country to decide whether cases should be formed into MDLs and, if so, where the MDL should be assigned.
Attorneys appear before the panel to ask for their state or district receive the MDL. Toriseva did that for West Virginia.
"I went to San Francisco to argue to send it to Judge Goodwin," Toriseva said. "It was based on his experience and his ability to handle mass tort litigation. This is a fantastic judge who can handle this and is respected by both sides."
Toriseva said the fact that the MDL is coming here is an endorsement of Goodwin more than anything.
"It's really about Judge Goodwin," she said. "He really is respected across the country. This is an indication in their faith in him and his ability to handle this type of litigation. He actually was not opposed by defendants. He was their second choice. They wanted it in Ohio."
What the MDL does is streamline the process for all of the cases across the country.
"Every federal court case filed anywhere in the country will be shipped to Goodwin for all pre-trial proceedings," Toriseva said.
Weirton attorney Carl Frankovitch, another lawyer working on the cases, elaborated.
"You avoid the duplication of efforts," he said. "There is one discovery, one set of depositions, one set of expert witnesses. Then, all of that information is returned to the individual district courts across the country as it is needed."
One step that still needs to be taken by Goodwin is the appointment of lead counsel in the case. Toriseva, Frankovitch and South Carolina attorney Fred Thompson are three in the running for that post.
"The lead counsel essentially is a quarterback for the litigation," Frankovitch said. "He or she directs the preparation of the case for everyone in the country."
Last week, Goodwin appointed Thompson Charleston attorney Harry Bell as co-liaison counsel.
"He's a fantastic lawyer," Toriseva said of Bell "He'll do great in that role."
Goodwin has handled the only other MDLs in West Virginia. Those involved Maytag washers and the antidepressant drug Serzone.