Carpenter Discusses "Meta" Class of Class Counsel After GMO-Rice MDL

In a Law360 article, Shook, Hardy & Bacon Partner Andrew Carpenter chronicles a "meta" class action against Riceland Foods, Inc., a party to multidistrict litigation (MDL) stemming from the use of genetically modified organism (GMO) rice, which several thousand rice farmers alleged had tainted the U.S. rice supply. After Riceland obtained a verdict in a cross-claim against Bayer and settled its portion of the MDL, a class of counsel and plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the company to obtain compensation for their work, which they argued Riceland benefited from when it received a judgment from Bayer. Carpenter details the reasoning of the district court and the later affirmation from the Eighth Circuit, discussing issues of jurisdiction and choice of law.

"The district court perspicaciously concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to compel state plaintiffs not before it to pay contribution to the common benefit fund, but strongly hinted that to allow these state court plaintiffs to escape scot-free would constitute 'unfair free riding' and 'unjustly enrich' those counsel who declined to voluntarily pay their fair share of the freight," Carpenter writes. Ultimately, "the class counsel class action filed in a receptive MDL transferee court with firsthand knowledge of the equities of the common benefit contribution scheme looks like a viable way to turn out the pockets of recalcitrant state court free riders, a much more practical situation than attempting to extend the jurisdiction of the MDL court beyond its natural limits. In other words, the MDL court needn’t have jurisdiction over you to make you comply with what it wants you to do."