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In re Ameriquest Mortgage Co. Mortgage Lending Practices Litigation

February 11, 2008

IN RE: AMERIQUEST MORTGAGE CO. MORTGAGE LENDING PRACTICES LITIGATION
AMERIQUEST MORTGAGE CO., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, AND ARGENT CENTRALIZED BEFORE THE MORTGAGE CO. LLC, A DELAWARE LIMITED LIABILITY CO., DEFENDANTS / THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NORTHWEST TITLE AND ESCROW CORPORATION, A MINNESOTA CORP., ET AL., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Judge

MDL No. 1715

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On October 23, 2007, Defendants / Third-Party Plaintiffs Ameriquest Mortgage Company and Argent Mortgage Company LLC (collectively, "Third-Party Plaintiffs") filed their Motion Regarding Certain Case Management Issues with Respect to Defendants' Third-Party Complaint ("Case Management Motion"). Third-Party Plaintiffs ask that we: (a) confirm that Third-Party Defendants*fn1 are bound by our November 7, 2006 Case Management Order; (b) bind Third-Party Defendants to Magistrate Judge Denlow's August 30, 2007 discovery orders; and (c) compel Third-Party Defendants to meet and form a committee, and suggest lead counsel, by the next status conference. In conjunction with their opposition to the Case Management Motion, Third-Party Defendants ask that we reconsider our December 10 and 12, 2007 minute orders, which required them to file a consolidated pleading and set a briefing schedule thereon. As discussed below, the Case Management Motion (Docket No. 1396) is denied and Third-Party Defendants' Motion to Reconsider (Docket No. 1841) is granted in part and denied in part. Further, having reviewed the parties' submissions on these issues, we set forth the following initial case management order specific to the action against Third-Party Defendants.

I. Third-Party Plaintiffs' Case Management Motion

While we appreciate Third-Party Plaintiffs' efforts to provide additional structure to the third-party litigation, we deny the Case Management Motion. As a practical matter, and given the passage of time, the November 7, 2006 Case Management Order and August 2007 discovery orders are not particularly relevant to the unique circumstances of the third-party action. We conclude that, rather than stretching the meanings of these prior orders, the most appropriate action is simply to issue a new order pertinent to this aspect of the MDL. Accordingly, we set out below procedures and requirements specific to the Third-Party Defendants and thus resolve some of the issues raised by the Case Management Motion.

II. Initial Case Management Issues

A. Participation in Mediation of Opt-Out Claimsand Related Discovery

As suggested by the Case Management Motion, we hereby order Third-Party Defendants to participate in the mediation of the opt-out claims.

Although we deny Third-Party Plaintiffs' request to bind Third-Party Defendants to the August 2007 discovery orders, we order the parties to participate in similarly limited, informal discovery to facilitate the mediation. Third-Party Plaintiffs shall promptly share relevant documents, including loan files and non-privileged correspondence, and other pertinent information with Third-Party Defendants, upon reasonable request.

Nonetheless, the mediation shall proceed as previously scheduled and need not be delayed pending the exchange of such information. The parties are expected to cooperate as the mediation process unfolds.

B. Organization of the Third-Party Defendants

In their Case Management Motion, Third-Party Plaintiffs ask that we compel Third-Party Defendants to form a committee and designate lead counsel prior to the next hearing. Third-Party Defendants object on the grounds that they are not a unified group. Indeed, there are three distinct categories of Third-Party Defendants: (a) brokers; (b) title examiner and closing agents; and (c) underwriter defendants. They contend that they cannot feasibly or economically form a single committee with one lead counsel because each counsel will be defending but a few actions, each defendant may have unique defenses, and the defendants may have claims against each other. Third-Party Defendants also state that they have been conferring as a group, and in sub-groups, in an attempt to organize themselves in the most appropriate manner. (See Third-Party Defs.' Resp., Docket No. 1841, at 13-14.)

In light of these circumstances and their mutual cooperation to date, Third-Party Defendants may develop and propose a structure that suits their needs with respect to committee(s) or subcommittee(s), counsel leadership and specific division of responsibilities. Third-Party ...


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