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Written for the American Bar Association Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Committee by Natalie Baker Reis and Brittnee Williams (MRC)

In today’s legal landscape, the efficient handling of case-related information is more critical than ever, especially in the fast-growing arena of multidistrict litigation (MDL), which now makes up over 70% of the total US civil case docket.

The caseload has grown so much over the past decade, that the MDL subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules has been diligently working towards establishing a new Rule 16.1 in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This new rule hopes to provide guidance on managing these large and complex matters.

While opinions on the breadth and efficacy of the new rule vary, Defense attorneys are hoping to establish a better system to prevent unvetted or frivolous claims from being brought into an MDL. A cornerstone of this system lies in the early vetting process facilitated by the Plaintiff Fact Sheet (PFS). PFSs serve as standardized forms deployed prior to extensive discovery and are meant to gather key details from plaintiffs in mass tort and MDL cases.

These standardized documents are essential tools in the preliminary discovery phase, designed to collate critical details from plaintiffs in mass tort and MDL scenarios. The strategic use of PFSs aids in the efficient organization, evaluation, and prioritization of claims, thereby equipping legal teams with the necessary insights to evaluate case merits, discern patterns, and formulate comprehensive strategies. As an organization who has spent the last four decades working alongside premier defense teams on the nation’s most high-stakes, high-volume litigations, MRC has a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies involved in the PFS process and its downstream effects on case outcomes.

In this article, we want to share with you best-practice strategies that not only mitigate the inherent ‘data problem’ associated with high-volume cases but also pave the way for substantial cost savings for clients, more favorable case resolutions, and ultimately, a smoother litigation experience for defense teams. As we dive into the nuances of managing complex litigation data, it becomes evident that efficiently managing the preliminary stages of the PFS process can significantly influence the trajectory of high-volume matters, ensuring not just legal success but also peace of mind for the defense team involved.


Begin with end in mind.

When developing a PFS, defense teams should have their ultimate objectives at the forefront. The principle of “beginning with the end in mind” entails foreseeing the crucial decisions that will emerge when later assessing the risk to the client. Often, PFS documents are filled with a vast array of questions that, on the surface, appear comprehensive. However, as legal teams delve deeper, they may discover that the questions critical for transitioning a plaintiff from a low- to high-risk category are not directly asked or answered in the PFS. This gap forces the legal team to engage in more extensive—and expensive—analysis of multiple questions to find the answers they need. To avoid these pitfalls, it is vital to establish the criteria for each priority group or subgroup during the PFS formation phase. This proactive approach allows for crafting questions that align directly with your evaluation criteria, streamlines the risk assessment process, and economizes time and resources while refining your legal strategy. This equips you to navigate the complexities of multidistrict litigation with enhanced precision and confidence.

What does an acceptable PFS response look like?

Navigating the complexities of PFSs demands a clear understanding of what qualifies as an acceptable response. This involves determining the sufficiency of answers for each PFS question, identifying the most beneficial data format, and deciding between structured or open-ended response options. For instance, when asking about exposure dates, would a specific date format be more useful than an open text field? Can certain questions be better addressed through a predefined list of options rather than allowing for any text input? It is also crucial to establish clear guidelines on what types of responses will be deemed unacceptable. By answering all of these questions, and using ePFS software, you can automate the flagging of deficiencies without needing to manually review each document.

Ask the important questions first.

After identifying the key data points necessary for your analysis and establishing criteria for acceptable responses, position these questions early in the document. In our experience responses tend to be most detailed and comprehensive at the start, where engagement is highest. As respondents progress through the form, fatigue can set in, leading to shorter, less informative answers, or even omitted responses. Ensuring that vital information is solicited first maximizes the likelihood of collecting complete and accurate data.

Use software to your advantage.

Harnessing the power of software is essential for efficient litigation support. It is crucial to ensure that every piece of data collected is accurately entered into a well-structured database. Quick data capture and reporting capabilities will significantly accelerate your decision-making process for the case. Proper database configuration is key, ensuring that data is stored in its appropriate format—dates as dates, numerical values as such, and employing picklists whenever possible to standardize responses for streamlined reporting. An effective database system should enable automatic identification of missing information, computation of total claims, and sorting of plaintiffs into defined risk categories. Moreover, centralizing provider details in one database significantly expedites the process of record retrieval. We have found that a properly formed PFS paired with a database software solution can greatly narrow the focus to high-priority cases, particularly for bellwether selection, effectively reducing the need for extensive record retrieval and nurse review efforts.


Effective management of PFS data ensures vital data is securely stored and readily accessible, empowering legal teams with the insights needed to make informed decisions, construct stronger arguments, and streamline case preparation. By employing the strategies listed above during the PFS formation, capture, and review process, Defense teams see the following benefits:

  • Automating portions of the deficiency review process that would otherwise be spent performing manual tasks.
  • Developing a data-driven case strategy, enabling quick adjustments as the case evolves
  • Strategically allocating budget in alignment with case risks to minimize discovery costs and scope.

Digital PFS Solutions

An additional benefit of utilizing a digital plaintiff fact sheet solution is its capability to refine the management of PFS data. This technology offers a seamless approach to organizing these crucial documents.

Legal experts gain access to a cohesive platform designed for efficient plaintiff data oversight, empowering them to:

  • Build Strategy Sooner: Gain immediate insight into plaintiff data, facilitating improved classification, prioritization, and the formulation of discovery strategies based on the most relevant data available.
  • Control Project Costs: Through early case assessment, align record retrieval and medical review services with case risk and priority, optimizing resources and minimizing unnecessary expenditures.
  • Ensure Security and Compliance: Choose a solution dedicated to protecting client data that’s built on a foundation of HIPAA compliance, with a robust security infrastructure and data backup measures to safeguard client information.

This digital approach not only makes PFS data management more efficient but also serves as a strategic asset, allowing legal experts to concentrate on their core strengths—developing compelling case strategies and advocating for their clients.



In the complex world of litigation, effectively managing plaintiff fact sheets stands as a critical component of successful case outcomes. As we anticipate the outcome of Rule 16.1 and its potential to reshape MDL procedures, the critical role of cutting-edge technology and sophisticated data management strategies becomes unmistakably apparent.

Navigating plaintiff fact sheet management requires a balanced approach that combines technological innovation with strategic oversight. Implementing strategies such as key question prioritization, establishing criteria for acceptable responses, and governing data formats are vital for enhancing data quality. This approach not only improves efficiency, but also enables the foundation of a better case strategy. As defense firms increasingly focus on utilizing the early vetting capabilities of the PFS to filter out unvetted or frivolous claims in MDLs, we will hopefully see the tide turn on the number of multidistrict litigation cases that make up the US civil case docket.