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A dynamic model of lawsuit joinder and settlement

  • Andrew F. Daughety
  • Jennifer F. Reinganum

In this paper we examine a dynamic model of the process by which multiple related lawsuits may be filed and combined; we also examine actions a defendant may employ that may disrupt the formation of a joint suit. Our initial model involves two potential plaintiffs, with private information about the harm they have suffered, in a multi-period setting with positive costs of filing a suit. If two plaintiffs file, they join their suits to obtain a lower per-plaintiff trial cost and a higher likelihood of prevailing against the defendant. We find that some plaintiff types never file, some wait to see if another victim files and only then file, some file early and then drop their suits if not joined by another victim and, finally, some file and pursue their suits whether or not they are joined; thus, the equilibrium resembles a "bandwagon." We then consider the effect of allowing preemptive settlement offers by the defendant aimed at discouraging follow-on suits. Preemptive settlement results in a "gold rush" of cases into the first period. In general, plaintiffs (ex ante) strictly prefer that such preemptive settlements not be allowed, and computational results suggest this may be broadly true for defendants as well; however, the inability of defendants to commit to such a policy results in an equilibrium with preemptive settlement. Finally, we consider partial unawareness of victims as to the source of harm; this provides a role for plaintiffs' attorneys, who may seek additional victims to join a combined lawsuit. Confidential preemptive settlements in the case of partial unawareness restrict the plaintiff's attorney from seeking additional victims and therefore leads to higher preemptive settlement amounts. Moreover, the defendant strictly prefers to employ preemptive settlement if the fraction of unaware victims is sufficiently high.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1756-2171.2011.00142.x
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Article provided by RAND Corporation in its journal RAND Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 42 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (09)
Pages: 471-494

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Handle: RePEc:bla:randje:v:42:y:2011:i:3:p:471-494
DOI: j.1756-2171.2011.00142.x
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  1. Yeon-Koo Che & Kathryn E. Spier, 2008. "Exploiting Plaintiffs through Settlement: Divide and Conquer," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 164(1), pages 4-23, March.
  2. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2002. "Informational Externalities in Settlement Bargaining: Confidentiality and Correlated Culpability," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(4), pages 587-604, Winter.
  3. repec:ucp:bkecon:9780226567600 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Nicolas Marceau & Steeve Mongrain, 2001. "Damage Averaging and the Formation of Class Action Suits," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 139, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.
  5. Che, Yeon-Koo, 1996. "Equilibrium formation of class action suits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(3), pages 339-361, November.
  6. Yeon-Koo Che, 2002. "The Economics of Collective Negotiation in Pretrial Bargaining," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(2), pages 549-576, May.
  7. Deffains, Bruno & Langlais, Eric, 2007. "Informational externalities and informational sharing in class action suits," MPRA Paper 4846, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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