Proposals for Managing Onewheel Accident Lawsuits Submitted By Parties in MDL
Lawyers involved in the recently consolidated Onewheel accident lawsuits are scheduled to meet today with the U.S. District Judge appointed to preside over the litigation, to discuss how pretrial proceedings should be managed and review competing proposals for a discovery schedule that will prepare the first claims for trial.
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, following a Onewheel recall issued in late September 2023, a growing number of product liability lawsuits have been filed, each raising nearly identical allegations that design defects caused devastating accidents and injuries, when a Onewheel stopped suddenly and nosedived.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in each of the lawsuits, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided last month to consolidate Onewheel accident lawsuits as part of an MDL before U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in the Northern District of California, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
Onewheel Accident Lawsuit Initial Conference
As part of the coordinated management of the litigation, it is expected that Judge Freeman will establish an early bellwether process, where a group of representative claims will be prepared for a series of test trials to gauge how jurors are likely to respond to expert testimony and evidence likely to be repeated in numerous claims throughout the litigation.
Today, lawyers involved in the litigation will meet with Judge Freeman for an initial case management conference, to review competing proposals for how the litigation should proceed. The conference comes a week after the parties submitted a Joint Initial Case Management Statement (PDF) on January 11.
In the statement, plaintiffs called for the parties to focus on cases where the plaintiff alleges the board suddenly and unexpectedly stopped during operation, causing a “nosedive” effect that ejected the rider from the vehicle. These would serve as representative cases throughout any bellwether early test trials, plaintiffs recommend.
Plaintiffs proposed that two cases be selected, which are representative of these types of accidents and injuries, with fact discovery completed by July 31, 2024, and the first bellwether trial ready to begin by June 16, 2025.
However, the manufacturer of Onewheel disagreed with the proposal, indicating that not enough discovery has yet to be conducted on the cases to make any decisions about which claims are the most representative of others that will be presented in the litigation. Instead, the defendant proposed that more cases be allowed to be filed and Plaintiff Fact Sheets developed to gather information about each Onewheel accident and the injuries involved, before the parties select representative bellwether cases.
Defendants claim once that preliminary discovery process is completed, parties should each select four cases involving significant injuries, and four cases involving lesser injuries, allowing each side to strike two cases from each category after those selections are made. However, the manufacturer said the parties should focus on the creation of Plaintiff Fact Sheets and a Master Complaint first.
Both parties have indicated that the court should also appoint a group of plaintiffs’ Onewheel injury lawyers to serve in various leadership positions during the litigation, taking certain actions during the pretrial proceedings that benefit all plaintiffs in the litigation.
Following the MDL proceedings and any bellwether trials, if the parties are unable to reach Onewheel accident settlements or another resolution for the litigation, each claim may be later remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it originated for separate trial dates in the future.
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