Centralization of Lawsuits Over OneWheel Injuries To Be Reviewed at JPML Hearing Nov. 30
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) will hear oral arguments next month, to determine whether all OneWheel injury lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system should be centralized before one U.S. District Judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
Onewheels are electric skateboards with only one wheel, which can accelerate to speeds of about 20 miles per hour while the rider balances on the supposedly self-righting board. However, dozens of product liability lawsuits have been filed in recent months alleging that design defects caused devastating OneWheel injuries and accidents.
Plaintiffs raise similar questions of fact and law, each indicating that the Onewheel is prone to nosedive due to problems with safety feature, known as “pushback”, which is supposed to give the rider physical resistance when the skateboard is reaching its operational limit. However, some users report that the OneWheel stopped completely, often hurling the rider to the ground.
These problems resulted in a massive Onewheel recall that was announced at the end of September, affecting 300,000 devices sold in the U.S., and plaintiffs each claim that they may have avoided OneWheel injuries if earlier actions had been taken by the manufacturer.
Last month, Future Motion, Onewheel’s manufacturer, petitioned the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate all lawsuits over Onewheel accidents and injuries before one judge for pretrial proceedings. The motion called for the claims to be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
In complex product liability litigation, where a large number of claims are brought by users of the same device, each experiencing similar injuries, it is common for the U.S. JPML to establish a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pretrial proceedings and a series of early bellwether trials. These early test cases are designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
Future Motion indicates some plaintiffs have protested the creation of a Onewheel MDL, but claims those plaintiffs are unaware of the full scope of the litigation and how consolidation will streamline and benefit all parties.
JPML to Hear Onewheel Accident Lawsuit Consolidation Arguments
The U.S. JPML issued a Notice of Hearing Session (PDF) on October 13, indicating it will hear oral arguments over whether lawsuits over Onewheel should be consolidated before one federal judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings on November 30. The hearing will take place at the U.S. District Court in San Antonio, Texas.
According to the notice, there are currently 31 Onewheel accident lawsuits filed in 14 different federal districts, with 11 claims currently pending in the Middle District of Florida, which has the largest number of lawsuits over Onewheel pending.
“There is almost unanimous support for the creation of a coordination or consolidated proceeding for federal Onewheel-related cases,” Future Motion indicated in a memorandum (PDF) supporting Onewheel consolidation. “Centralization of these actions would facilitate coordinated discovery, prevent inconsistent rulings, and promote the efficiency and convenience of the parties, counsel, and court because discovery, whether fact and/or expert, remains outstanding in every case and there are substantial redundancies in the discovery sought, witnesses to be deposed, and experts utilized.”
The JPML also received input from a number of plaintiffs involved in the litigation. In late September plaintiff Jason Bailey filed a response (PDF) in support of Onewheel consolidation.
“Plaintiffs agree that centralization is appropriate for these cases, each of which concerns one manufacturer, one skateboard, and one plaintiff,” Bailey’s response indicates. “And Plaintiffs contend that the Panel should transfer thse cases to the Honorable Roy B. Dalton, Jr. in the Middle District of Florida.”
Not all plaintiffs agree, however. The JPML also received a response (PDF) from a group of 16 plaintiffs in late September who disagree with consolidation, particularly in the Middle District of Florida. This batch of plaintiffs, known as the Loh Plaintiffs, have filed a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California, and say it should not be transferred to Florida federal court.
“Transfer would likewise be inconvenient for the parties and witnesses because Future Motion is headquartered in the Northern District of California. Viewing source code at Future Motion’s offices, ensuring Future Motion’s employees can sit for depositions, and other foreseeable instances where the parties will need to collaborate in discovery will be more convenient if the Loh litigation proceeds in the Northern District of California,” their response states. “This is precisely why the Loh Plaintiffs originally filed in that venue. Moreover, the Loh plaintiffs have extremely limited connections to Florida—only one of the 16 named plaintiffs is domiciled there.”
After the hearings, the JPML will decide whether to establish a Onewheel MDL and which venue is most appropriate.
Even if an MDL is established, each individual claim may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it originated if the parties fail to negotiate a Onewheel injury settlement or another resolution for the claims.
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