He seems to think they don't belong in
These consolidated appeals are yet another chapter in the ongoing tobacco litigation that began as a class action in Florida courts more than two decades ago and has since swollen the federal docket with thousands of individual cases. Today we are asked to decide the fate of 588 personal injury cases filed on behalf of purportedly living cigarette smokers who, as it turns out, were dead at the time of filing (a group we shall call the “predeceased plaintiffs”), 160 loss of consortium cases filed on behalf of spouses and children1 of these predeceased plaintiffs, and two wrongful death cases filed more than two years after the decedent-smoker’s death. These cases all suffered from various patent defects. As any lawyer worth his salt knows, a dead person cannot maintain a personal injury claim; under Florida law, a loss of consortium claim is “derivative in nature and wholly dependent on [the injured party’s] ability to recover,” Faulkner v. Allstate Ins. Co., 367 So. 2d 214, 217 (Fla. 1979);2 and claims brought pursuant to the Florida Wrongful Death Act are subject to a two-year limitations period, Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4)(d)....Quite a read -- it goes (way) downhill from there.
Despite the thousands of pages of briefing to the District Court and to this court, the root of the problem in all these cases is simple. Back in 2008, when these cases were originally filed, the law firm that brought them didn’t have the time or resources required to fully investigate all the complaints (the firm in question filed claims on behalf of over 4,000 individuals). As a result, problem after problem cropped up once the District Court started going through the inventory of cases: there were personal injury claims filed on behalf of deceased smokers, wrongful death claims filed by “survivors” of smokers who were still living, cases filed as a result of “clerical errors,” multiple cases filed for the same person, cases filed for people the law firm had no contact with, claims that had already been adjudicated by another court, cases filed for people who didn’t want to pursue a lawsuit, and claims filed long after the relevant limitations period had run. Over and over, plaintiffs’ counsel explained that these problems were the result of the unique logistical difficulties involved in managing so many individual lawsuits. And over and over the District Court reminded counsel that a lawyer’s responsibilities to the court are not diluted even by an ocean of claims.