An order issued by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) late last week consolidated more than two dozen actions pending across the country accusing various social media platform operators of causing harm to adolescent users. The product liability-theory cases, which level allegations at Meta Platforms, Snap, TikTok, and YouTube, will now proceed in the Northern District of California before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.
As previously reported, a slew of filings allege that the defendants know yet refuse to disclose that their platforms are socially, emotionally, and physically harmful to youth users. Specifically, the suits claim that the defendants encourage addictive behavior and bypass parental controls, fail to verify users’ ages, inadequately safeguard against harmful content and intentionally amplify that content.
The cases, often brought on behalf of aggrieved children or sometimes by a surviving parent, state causes of action like defective design of social media products, failure to warn minors and their parents of the harms posed, and common law negligence and attractive nuisance claims.
The JPML’s decision comes after one plaintiff asked it to consolidate the cases for pre-trial proceedings. Some parties chimed in as to whether and where the cases should be consolidated.
While Meta was in favor of coordination, Snap, TikTok, and YouTube opposed the inclusion of claims against them in centralized proceedings, citing the existence of particularized facts that would complicate matters.
The JPML overrode these contentions, finding that the actions involved common questions of fact and that centralization would serve the parties and witnesses and promote efficient resolution of the litigation. “That individualized factual issues may arise in each action does not—especially at this early stage of litigation—negate the efficiencies to be gained by centralization,” the order reasoned.
Further, the JPML said that Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, “an experienced transferee judge,” can address unique issues by creating separate discovery tracks for each defendant or platform, to the extent necessary.
As to location, and though many districts were suggested, including the Western District of Missouri, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Southern District of Ohio, the District of Utah, Eastern or Western District of Kentucky, the Middle District of Florida, and the Northern District of Georgia, the JPML selected the district home to many of the defendants and settled the case in Oakland, Calif.