With the proliferation of consolidated litigation in recent years, various courts have lamented the lack of scrutiny often given to individual cases prior to filing in a class action or multidistrict litigation. Given the structure of these mass proceedings, where claims are often resolved on a global level, with payout determined by the number of filings, individual claims frequently do not get meaningfully assessed.
This process has an obvious inherent risk of including meritless individual cases. Against this backdrop, recent federal court decisions demonstrate courts’ increased willingness to police meritless claims by assessing whether counsel’s pre-suit investigation was adequate.
The requirement that counsel conduct a meaningful pre-suit investigation is derived from Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 11 states that by filing a pleading, counsel represents that, to the best of their knowledge “formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances,” the legal theories are warranted by existing law or nonfrivolous argument, and the factual contentions have evidentiary support or will have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation.