When a federal multidistrict litigation court makes a pretrial ruling in a suit, there usually is little — if anything — a U.S. district judge can do except abide by that decision; to do otherwise would frustrate the goals of multidistrict litigation. But in In Re: Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, a case of first impression, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Aug. 21 that U.S. district judges do not need to abide by MDL court orders in some circumstances.

The complicated background of the case, according to the 5th Circuit opinion, is as follows: In 2002, the Mexican plaintiffs originally filed their suit in a state district court in Val Verde County, alleging they were injured in Mexico in accidents involving Ford sport utility vehicles and Firestone tires. Defendants Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin. Senior U.S. District Judge Harry Hudspeth transferred the suit to the MDL court in the Southern District of Indiana, which was established to handle more than 700 similar suits alleging product defects filed against Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone.

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