The Michigan Supreme Court has issued an administrative order prohibiting the "bundling" of asbestos-related personal injury cases.
Bundling occurs when personal injury cases�in this case asbestos-related cases�are joined with other related cases for settlement. The order bans bundling except for discovery, holding "that each case should be decided on its own merits, and not in conjunction with other cases."
A distinctive danger of "bundled" settlements, or "batch" or "inventory" settlements as I have called them on another occasion, is that plaintiff's lawyers may refuse to settle a relatively strong case unless a defendant also agrees to settle many relatively weak cases. In the batch settlement the defendant winds up paying more money, but since it also winds up spreading around that money among many claimants, the "strong" individual claimant (say, one with mesothelioma who worked closely with the defendant's product) may fare less well than if his case had been taken to settlement on its own.
At the same time, it would seem plausible that rightly employed, batch settlements can serve legitimate objectives of economy, finality and closure; some defendants might prefer or even instigate them, while conscientious plaintiff's lawyers might take care to manage the process so that no clients were shortchanged. Perhaps the Michigan court's action reflects a prudential estimation that in the asbestos case, these potential advantages are outweighed by the risks of abuse.