One of the most efficient methods for obtaining individual plaintiff discovery in multi-district litigation and other coordinated proceedings is through the use of a Plaintiff Fact Sheet (PFS).
A PFS is a court-approved, standardized form that is used to obtain general information about the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s claim. It replaces the need for interrogatories and requests for production and provides both parties with information that is crucial to claims and defenses.
The standard PFS process is fairly routine. First, the plaintiff completes the PFS, and the plaintiff’s counsel reviews his or her responses before serving the completed fact sheet on the defendant. Supporting documentation, such as medical records and authorizations, are also included with the PFS. Once receiving the information, the defendant then must analyze the PFS and identify any deficiencies, such as whether the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient claim information. If deficiencies are identified, the plaintiff’s counsel is then notified to correct any and all deficiencies by the court-appointed deadline in order to avoid potential dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim.
The information obtained during the PFS process can serve many purposes. Not only can it be used to identify cases for targeted discovery, but it can also serve in facilitating settlement negotiations and selecting bellwether cases. In addition, PFS’s can be used to screen cases in which plaintiffs lack information to support a claim against a defendant, allowing for early case assessment and determination of meritless claims.
In order to attain the most benefit from the PFS process, the following best practices are recommended:
Use Precise Language
The actual PFS form is typically created through collaboration and agreement among the involved parties. Thus, when developing the PFS design and format, questions should be asked as directly as possible. This helps ensure that the plaintiff doesn’t provide either conflicting information or a lack of information – both of which prevent the defendant from being able to properly evaluate the claim at that point in time.
Engage an Expert Early
Securing a legal nurse consultant during the development of the actual PFS form will help ensure that attorneys don’t miss out on asking important medical questions that relate to the allegations. For example, if the allegations involve a stroke, then the PFS should ask certain questions, such as whether the plaintiff has had any history of stroke or other cardiovascular conditions, as well as any clotting disorders, pulmonary embolus or deep vein thrombosis, etc. Receiving information that is critical to the plaintiff’s claim will help in informing case strategy and assessing the claim as a whole.
Utilize Online Discovery Platforms
The use of online portals to electronically complete, host and share PFS’s and other supporting documentation has become more popular in recent years, due to their ability to efficiently – and cost-effectively – manage complex litigation. First, these portals greatly reduce the possibility of deficiencies, as they can require certain questions to be answered on the PFS form before the data can be saved and submitted to the defendant. The various plaintiff responses can then be sorted and analyzed, providing parties with enhanced visibility into demographics and the injuries being alleged, as well as other pertinent case trends. With all information stored in one centralized and secure location, these portals also provide attorneys with the real-time insight necessary to make informed decisions about the course of a litigation matter.
Ultimately, the use of PFS’s remains an effective means for coordinating discovery across a large pool of plaintiffs. By proactively taking certain approaches during the development of the PFS form, law firms on both sides can increase the efficiency of the process, as well as better manage their time and budget.
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