We sat down with Leigh O’Dell, shareholder at Beasley Allen Law firm, about her experience utilizing A.I. software to improve firm-wide operations for mass tort litigations.
Q. What are your thoughts on AI and how it can be used in mass torts?
A. When it comes to mass torts, the defendants we go up against are highly skilled in analyzing the information they receive about our clients and building databases. They have an advantage in understanding the breadth of the litigation, even more so than individual law firms. However, the use of artificial intelligence (like in software platforms like Pattern Data) can level the playing field. While AI is not a magic solution and there’s still a lot of hard work required to understand our clients’ needs and use the data effectively, it’s a valuable tool that can improve our efficiency and effectiveness. With AI, we can compete much more aggressively and gain a deeper understanding of the individual facts of each case. I’m all for embracing technology to help us compete at a higher level.
Q. What are some of the big challenges for firms in a mass tort?
A. As an attorney working on mass tort litigations, I believe one of the biggest challenges we face is really understanding what our clients have experienced so we can help them effectively. It’s a multi-step process that involves looking at the science from a causation standpoint, assessing liability for the company, and most importantly, understanding our clients’ experiences. If we don’t analyze all of these elements cohesively, it can be difficult to make the most of the litigation.
In addition, reviewing medical records can be a challenge, particularly in cases related to radiation oncology. These records are often unstandardized and require careful examination of every line. Defendants often claim that plaintiff’s counsel do not understand basic information about their cases, so it’s crucial to gather medical records early and do the necessary due diligence. However, reviewing records line by line can be laborious and time-consuming. In the past, we would go through records as a team, but even then, we would often find ourselves going back to the records to look for additional information.To overcome this challenge, we need to find more efficient ways of reviewing medical records and documenting our findings. The use of automation tools like what Pattern Data is doing can help us be more effective litigators.
Q. What are notable litigations that you were a part of?
A. The first one that comes to mind is the Vioxx litigation. Vioxx was a pain reliever sold by Merck that caused heart attacks and strokes. It was actually my first case when I returned to practice, and I worked with a terrific team here at Beasley Allen led by Andy Burchfield. The Vioxx litigation really changed the way that pharmaceutical drugs were approved by the FDA in terms of their labeling and safety information. It was a wonderful experience to be in early in the case, try Bellwether cases, be involved with the settlement process, see a lot of people be helped, and to see actual policy change.
Currently, I’m involved in the talcum powder and ovarian cancer litigation against Johnson and Johnson. Johnson and Johnson removed Johnson’s baby powder from the market in the U.S in 2020 and from the world just this month, in 2023. I believe that thousands of women’s lives will be saved as a result of that very significant litigation from a safety and health perspective. As a litigator, that’s why we do what we do – we want to help our clients and serve our clients, but we want overall change so that other people will be helped as a result of what we’re doing. I’m very grateful to be a part of that process.