The lawyer’s role in the multi-billion dollar world of mass tort lawsuits; Vanderbilt professor offers a creative solution to managehigh-stakes claims

[Media Note: Vanderbilt has a campus broadcast facility with a dedicated fiber optic line for live TV interviews and a high quality radio ISDN line.]

Watch video of Nagareda talking about his research.

Vioxx, Fen-Phen, Agent Orange, silicone breast implants, asbestos. This is just a short list of the major personal-injury lawsuits that have dominated the multi-billion dollar world of mass tort litigation.

Often, private lawyers are the controversial stars in this highly publicized and often criticized world of big-money lawsuits. But Vanderbilt law professor Richard Nagareda argues that these huge settlements have transformed the legal system so extensively that rival teams of lawyers operate as sophisticated governing powers rather than litigators.

“The real story of mass torts today is the story of how these lawyers have come to function as a rival regime of legal reform, one that wields the power to replace the legal rights of affected persons with a new set of rights spelled out in some manner of settlement agreement,” said Nagareda. “Real lawyers in the real world are both heroes and villains here.”

Nagareda has created an ambitious plan to reform mass torts. He wants to stop thinking about mass torts as primarily a problem of litigation and start thinking about them as a form of governance and occasions to form a privatized, administrative system to compensate victims. His solution is to design improved oversight and accountability for this privatized system of compensation by blending innovatively the work of private attorneys with the authority of public administrative agencies.

He explains his proposal in a newly released book called Mass Torts in a World of Settlement. Yale Law School professor Peter Schuck commented about Nagareda’s plan, “He offers an ingenious and attractive public law solution to what he properly sees as a public law problem – and shows us how to achieve it.” NYU School of Law professor Samuel Issacharoff calls Nagareda’s new research, “An indispensable read for anyone interested in the real world of how injured individuals are compensated in mass American society.”

Along with being a professor of law, Nagareda is also the director of the Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program and the Tarkington Chair in Teaching Excellence at Vanderbilt Law School.

Media Contact: Amy Wolf, (615) 322-NEWS

Explore Story Topics