Gender Disparity in Mass Torts

Attorney Rob Jenner made the important point in a recent article that while women are representing more and more of the legal community in terms of law school graduates, practicing lawyers, state court judgeships, and even on the United States Supreme Court, there are still areas of leadership where women are shockingly and inexplicably unrepresented. Specifically, mass torts are an area in which a disproportionately small percentage of women are involved in leadership positions.

Mass torts deal primarily with large-scale cases involving dangerous drugs and defective medical devices, and such cases often result in enormous settlements for injured parties as well as large scale media attention. In stark contrast to most other areas of law, fewer than 10% of the attorneys involved in mass tort litigation are women, despite the fact that many of these cases involve products which are used and consumed primarily by women.

An unfortunate example of this can be seen in recent lawsuits that have been filed against Bayer AG regarding a popular intrauterine birth control device. Despite the obvious relevance and importance of the female perspective in such cases, the 35-odd plaintiff firms which met to select an executive committee for litigation produced an exclusively male group, prompting the New York federal judge overseeing the lawsuits to recommend that there be female attorneys included in leadership positions.

Some of the most significant mass tort cases which have occurred in the United States over the last 20 years have involved products and devices created for and marketed exclusively toward women, driving home the point of relevant perspective. Such reasoning should not be necessary however, as there is simply no reasoning or rationale by which it can be justified today that an entire field of law be dominated by men. By identifying the gender gap in mass tort law, we can hope to address and overcome that inequality in the future.

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