The 2020 Litigation Roller Coaster: A Case Study on Litigation Analytics – Jeff Cox Writes in Legaltech News

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The 2020 Litigation Roller Coaster: A Case Study on Litigation Analytics – Jeff Cox Writes in Legaltech News

Litigation analytics position legal departments, legal operations, and outside counsel to recognize mounting litigation risk threatening the health of their companies and clients, and react in a timely, data-driven manner. 

We’re thrilled to share UniCourt’s latest article in Legaltech News written by our Director of Content, Jeff Cox. Jeff’s article, “The 2020 Litigation Roller Coaster: A Case Study on Litigation Analytics” is the first in a three-part series on why legal departments should be using litigation analytics and legal technology to discern, assess, and respond to litigation spikes.

Here below is an excerpt from Jeff’s article in Legaltech News:

Litigation spikes from mass tort litigation and class action lawsuits can happen at a moment’s notice and carry on for years. Legal departments should not be caught flat-footed by a litigation spike hitting their companies when they have unparalleled access to the litigation analytics and legal tech tools needed to recognize, analyze, and address new challenges.

Starting in January 2020, 3M Company faced the ultimate litigation nightmare to the tune of several thousand new product liability cases per month, with over 227,000 cases last year. This marked an increase by a factor of nearly 45, from just over 5,000 cases in 2019. The overwhelming majority of the cases are related to alleged personal injuries, specifically, product liability claims surrounding a line of earplugs sold by 3M. It remains to be seen how this will play out in court, but from a litigation analytics perspective, a large portion of this story is already written.

We will be using the example of 3M to illustrate an extreme (but possibly increasingly prevalent) example of what can happen when a litigation spike runs off the rails. In this three-part series, we will explore (1) the power of litigation analytics and technology to alert legal departments and outside counsel to these types of spikes, (2) how to use technology to manage a massive litigation surge and keep the related data structured and useful, and (3) how lawyers can leverage technology and litigation analytics to proactively monitor and prepare for possible future challenges of this kind.

3M: A Case Study in Litigation Analytics 

The point of this article isn’t to castigate 3M for this spike in product liability cases, but to ask the question of when should 3M have manned the walls, and when should they have been able to see a discernible pattern and outsized volume of cases coming down the pike.

Arguably, the proverbial writing appeared on the wall in 2018, when 3M entered a multimillion-dollar settlement after acknowledging a line of earplugs it sold were defective. This was followed by a trickle of cases in January, February, and March of 2019, with a break in the dam that April. And then a new trend occurred: hundreds of new filings every month for the remainder of 2019 would later morph seamlessly into thousands of cases per month in 2020.

Here is a breakdown of the data from January 2019 through March 2021 on all of the personal injury—product liability cases filed against 3M in the Northern District of Florida. Notably, all but around 4,000 of the cases filed since January 2019 have been filed in this single U.S. District in Florida.

3M Personal Injury - Product Liability Litigation from 2019-2021

The data shows a sharp increase between March and April of 2019, with a total case count of only two new filings in March, then spiking to 657 in April, dipping a bit, then hitting the peak of 2019 with 776 cases in July. Then, beginning in January of 2020, filings skyrocketed quickly into the thousands per month, plateauing at over 35,000 new lawsuits filed in June of 2020.

And the trend continues, with another 14,000 plus cases filed in just the first quarter of 2021.

Arguably, 3M should have known the litigation floodgates would open based on the settlement in late 2018, but the question still stands: How could 3M have known the scale this litigation would reach?

You can read the full article here on Legaltech News.

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