Order Code RS20861
Updated December 10, 2002
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Multiparty, Multiforum Trial Jurisdiction Act of
2002, P.L. 107-273
Paul Starett Wallace, Jr.
Specialist in American Public Law
American Law Division
Senior Paralegal Specialist
American Law Division
Congress enacted the Multiparty, Multiforum Trial Jurisdiction Act of 2002 as
section 11020 of the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization
Act, P.L. 107-273, H.R. 2215. The Act allows the consolidation of causes of action
growing out a single accident that involves the deaths of at least 75 individuals that
might otherwise have been scattered in state and federal courts throughout the nation.
Its provisions were gleaned almost entirely from section 3 of H.R. 860 the
Multidistrict, Multiparty, Multiforum Trial Jurisdiction Act of 2001. H.R. 860
addressed two areas of concern. Both were designed to save the courts and litigants time
and money. One was concerned with the consolidation of state and federal cases arising
out of the same major accident. It dealt with the difficulties associated with avoiding
multiple trials involving the same issues and many of the same parties. The other,
omitted from the Act, involved the consolidation of federal (but not state) cases
involving essentially the same issues and parties (but not limited to a major accident).
It dealt with the question of who should decide where cases, transferred to a single court
for pre-trial purposes, should ultimately be tried.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
The Act may be cited as the “Multiparty, Multiforum Trial Jurisdiction Act of 2002.”
Section 11020(b). Multiparty, Multiforum Jurisdiction of District Courts.
The Act amends Chapter 85 of title 28 of the United States Code by adding a new
section (Section 1369. Multiparty, multiforum jurisdiction) which in subsection (a)
bestows “original jurisdiction” on a federal district court involving “any civil action
involving minimal diversity between adverse parties that arises from a single accident,
where at least 75 ... persons have died ... if (1) a defendant resides in a State and a
substantial part of the accident took place in another State or other location, regardless of
whether the defendant is also a resident of the State where a substantial part of the
accident took place; (2) any two defendants reside in different States regardless of
whether such defendants are also residents of the same State or States; or (3) substantial
parts of the accident took place in different States.”
Subsection (b) (Limitation of Jurisdiction of District Courts) of the new section
1369 creates an exception to the minimum diversity rule by providing that a district court
may not hear any case in which “(1) [a] substantial majority of all plaintiffs are citizens
of a single State of which the primary defendants are also citizens;2 and (2) the claims
asserted will be governed primarily by the laws of that [same] State.” In these situations,
only State courts may have jurisdiction.
Subsection (c) (Special Rules and Definitions). The following special rules and
definitions are provided:
(1) minimal diversity exists between adverse parties if any party is a citizen of
a State and any adverse party is a citizen of another State, a citizen or subject
of a foreign state, or a foreign as defined in section 1603(a) of this title;
(2) a corporation is deemed to be a citizen of any State, and a citizen or subject
of any foreign state, in which it is incorporated or has its principal place of
H.R. 860 and section 11020 of H.R. 2215 are essentially the same with the following
exceptions: (1) Section 11020 creates a new section 1369 of Title 28 of the U.S. Code which
confers original jurisdiction upon the federal district courts of any civil action involving minimal
diversity between adverse parties arising from a single accident where at least 75 (rather than 25)
persons have died and (2) Section 11020 would appear to have eliminated the minimal amount
of damages required for federal court jurisdiction which must exceed $150.000.00 per person
under H.R. 860.
One reason opponents may have objected to the expansion of the district courts’ jurisdiction
in H.R. 860, presumably, may have been because the terms “substantial majority” and “primary
defendant” are not defined. However, according to the House Report, “[n]o hearings on the bill
were held, given the ample legislative history that preceded it from the 95th Congress through the
106th.” H.Rept. 107-14, at 5 and 41. Provisions comparable to section 11020 passed the House
in both the 105th and 106th Congresses, H.R. 1252 (105th Cong.), 144 Cong. Rec. H2286 (daily
ed. April 23, 1998); H.R. 2112 (106th Cong.), 145 Cong. Rec. H8109 (daily ed. Sept. 13, 1999).
business, and is deemed to be a resident of any State in which it is incorporated
or licensed to do business or is doing business;
(3) injury means (A) physical harm to a natural person; and (B) physical
damage to or destruction of tangible property, but only if physical harm ...
(4) ... accident means a sudden accident, or a natural event culminating in an
accident, that results in death or injury incurred at a discrete location by at least
75 natural persons; and
(5) the term state includes the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of
Puerto Rico, and any territory or possession of the United States.
Subsection (d) (Intervening Parties) of the new section 1369 permits any person
in any action brought in the federal district court to intervene as a party plaintiff and file
a claim arising from the accident.
Subsection (e) (Notification of Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation). A
federal district court in which an action is pending under the provisions of the Act must
promptly notify the judicial panel on multidistrict litigation (MDLP) of the pendency of
The Act amends the general federal venue statute, 28 USC 1391, by providing that
any civil action brought under the statute may be brought in any federal district court in
which any defendant resides or in which a substantial part of the accident giving rise to
the action took place.
Section 11020 (b)(3) (Removal of Actions). The Act amends 28 USC 1441 to
permit a defendant in a civil action in a state court to remove the case to federal court if:
(A) the action could have been brought in federal court under the Act; or (B) the
defendant is a party to litigation that could have been brought, in whole or in part, in
federal court under the Act and that arises from the same accident as the action in state
The new section 1441(e)(2-5), “...also sets forth the procedure for removal, along
with the terms by which an action is remanded back to state court for determination of
damages, including appellate procedures governing liability.”3 These paragraphs further
provide that “[a]ny decision under 1369(e) concerning remand for the 1369 determination
of damages is not reviewable by appeal or otherwise under new paragraph (6)” regarding
the authority of the district court to transfer or dismiss an action on the ground of
The Act applies with respect to any cause of action where “the accident giving rise
to the cause of action which occurred on or after the 90th day after the date of enactment
of [the] Act.”
H.Rept. 107-685 at 202.
H.Rept. 107-685 at 202.
Section 11020(b)(4) (Service of Process) will vest federal district courts with
nation-wide service of process authority (world-wide authority where applicable law
permits) when the Act supplies the basis for its jurisdiction in whole or in part.5
Comparison with H.R. 860
The Act’s treatment of major accident cases differs from that of H.R. 860 in three
respects. First, it is limited to accidents involving the death or injury of 75 individuals
rather than 25 casualties that served as a threshold for H.R. 860. Second, it drops H.R.
860's requirement that each injured plaintiff have sustained damages of more than
$150,000. Third, it makes no mention of amendments to 28 U.S.C. 1407, under which
H.R. 860 would direct a transfer from one federal district court to another of cases arising
under the Act.
In this last regard, H.R. 860 would have added a new subsection (j)(1) to 1407 which
would have allowed the transferee court to retain jurisdiction over the case for
determination of liability and punitive damages. The transferee court would remand the
case to the district court from which it was transferred, or to the state court from which
the case was removed, for the determination of damages, other than punitive damages,
unless the transferee court found, for the convenience of parties and witnesses and in the
interest of justice, that the action should be retained for the determination of damages.
Brief Legislative History
The proposals in H.R. 860 date back several years.6 The precursor (H.R. 2112) of
H.R. 860 in the 106th Congress was introduced by Representative Sensenbrenner on July
9, 1999. It was reported out of the Committee on the Judiciary on July 30, 1999, H.Rept.
106-276, 106th Cong., 1st Sess. (1998), and passed the House by voice on October 21,
1999. The Senate passed H.R. 2112 stripped of all but the transfer provisions on October
27, 1999.7 Although the House passed an identical bill (H.R. 5562) to the one passed by
the Senate (H.R. 2112), the 106th Congress adjourned without final action on either
The changes made in H.R. 860 which were not a part of H.R. 2112 as passed by the
House include: (1) a plaintiff must allege a minimum of $150,000.00 in damages which
is increased from $75,000.00 to file in the U.S. district court; (2) an exception to the
minimum diversity rule is created whereby a U.S. district court may not hear a case if a
majority for the plaintiffs and the primary defendants are citizens of the same State and
claims are governed by the laws of that State; and (3) the choice of law section was
28 U.S.C. 1785.
E.g., H.R. 4159 (98th Cong.) (transferee concern); H.R. 4315 (99th Cong.) (major accident
concern); H.Rept. 102-373 (Multiparty, Multiforum Jurisdiction Act of 1991).
See CRS Report RS20382 , Multidistrict Jurisdiction Act of 1999. The transfer provisions had
been part of a more ambitious jurisdiction bill, S. 248 introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman
Orrin Hatch, which saw no further action, see generally, CRS Report RS20112, Judicial
Improvement Act of 1999, S. 248, 106th Congress.
stricken which gave district court judges considerable authority to select the relevant law
that would apply in a particular case.
On July 23, 2001, H.R. 2215 passed in the House by voice vote8 and in the Senate
with amendments by unanimous consent on December 20, 2001.9 The differences
between H.R. 860 and the current amendments found in H.R. 2215 (the Department of
Justice Authorization bill) were made in conference and set forth in subsection 11020 of
the conference report. Subsection 11020 creates a new section 1369 of Title 28 of the
U.S. Code which confers original jurisdiction upon the federal district courts of any civil
action involving minimal diversity between adverse parties arising from a single accident
where at least 75 (rather than 25) persons have died. The other difference would appear
to be the elimination of the minimal amount of damages required which was $150,000.00
per person under H.R. 860. The conference report10 was agreed to in the House by a vote
of 400-4 on September 26, 200211 and in the Senate by unanimous consent on Oct. 3,
2002.12 It was signed by the President on November 2, 2002 and became P.L. 107-273.
147 Cong.Rec. H4384-4389 (daily ed. July 23, 2001).
147 Cong.Rec. S14065-14075 (daily ed. Dec. 20, 2001).
Conf.Rept. H.Rept. 107-685 (text of report: 148 Cong.Rec. H6586-6649 (daily ed. Sept. 25,
148 Cong.Rec. H6743-6751 (daily ed. Sept. 26, 2002).
148 Cong.Rec. S9870-9892 (daily ed. Oct. 3, 2002).
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