Clark v. Arkansas Steel Associates LLC
OPINION AND ORDER denying Clark's 33 motion to consolidate. Signed by Judge J. Leon Holmes on 1/5/2017. (ljb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
WILMA J. CLARK
No. 1:15CV00092 JLH
ARKANSAS STEEL ASSOCIATES, LLC
OPINION AND ORDER
Wilma J. Clark brings this action against her former employer, Arkansas Steel Associates,
LLC, alleging sex and race1 discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).
Document #1. When Clark commenced this action on August 25, 2015, it was randomly assigned
to the undersigned’s docket and given the case number 1:15CV00092. Mollie L. Wright, also a
former employee of Arkansas Steel, commenced an action against Arkansas Steel on August 12,
2016, alleging sex discrimination in violation of Title VII and age discrimination in violation of the
ADEA. The action was randomly assigned to the Honorable Kristine G. Baker’s docket and given
the case number 1:16CV00106. Clark has filed a motion to consolidate these actions pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a). Document #33. Arkansas Steel opposes consolidation. For
the following reasons, the motion for consolidation is denied.
Clark and Wright maintain that the Court should exercise its discretion to consolidate cases
1:15CV00092 and 1:16CV00106. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) governs the consolidation
of cases and provides:
If actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may:
On November 8, 2016, the Court granted Clark permission to amend her complaint to allege
a claim for race discrimination. Document #28.
(1) join for hearing or trial any or all matters at issue in the actions;
(2) consolidate the actions; or
(3) issue any other orders to avoid necessary cost or delay.
The district court has broad discretion to determine whether two actions should be consolidated.
Enter. Bank v. Saettele, 21 F.3d 233, 235 (8th Cir. 1994). The purpose of consolidation is to
promote convenience and judicial economy, rather than to create a single action or change the rights
of the parties. United States v. Altman, 750 F.2d 684, 695 (8th Cir. 1984). The threshold
question—which Rule 42 directs the court to ask in order to determine whether consolidation can
achieve this purpose—is whether the actions involve a common question of law or fact. If so, the
courts “weigh the saving of time and effort that consolidation under Rule 42(a) would produce
against any inconvenience, delay, or expense that it would cause for the litigants and the trial judge.”
9A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 2383 (3d ed. 2016)
(citing Arnold v. Eastern Airlines, 681 F.2d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 1982) (listing factors courts should
Clark and Wright argue that consolidation would facilitate judicial economy because they
allege that a common defendant engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination and because they
have each retained the same counsel. Document #31 at 1. While some common factual threads run
through the actions—Clark and Wright were both female employees of Arkansas Steel who allege
they were discriminated against during the years 2014 and 2015—the differences between the
actions are significant and mitigate any saving of time and effort that consolidation would produce.
First, it is true that there are some facts common to both actions. The most obvious are that
Arkansas Steel employed Clark and Wright, who are both women. Both women were passed over
for promotions. Younger men were promoted instead. And the complaints allege that the women
interacted with the same individual in charge of human resources—Brian Robinson. But the factual
similarities end there. Clark worked in the H.R. department under Robinson. Wright worked in the
shipping department and interacted with Robinson concerning complaints she had after the company
president, Ted Unami, hired a younger, less qualified male to fill a position for which Wright had
Clark and Wright’s narratives do not overlap. While Clark insists in support of her motion
to consolidate that Arkansas Steel engaged in a “pattern and practice” of unlawful discrimination,
that is not the gist of either complaint. Rather, the complaints describe two separate, discrete series
of incidents that occurred at the same place and involved some of the same people. But see E.E.O.C.
v. HBE Corp., 135 F.3d 543, 551 (8th Cir. 1998) (upholding the district court’s decision to
consolidate two Title VII actions where the plaintiffs based their claims on the same series of
incidents). Those overlapping people—Robinson and Unami—have already been deposed in the
Clark action, but they presumably have not been asked about anything relevant to Wright’s action.
Because they have already been deposed, any saving of time and effort that consolidation would
produce during discovery has been forfeited.
Second, Clark has alleged race discrimination, while Wright has not. The bulk of Clark’s
complaint alleges facts pertaining to this theory. Clark alleges that she was required to cover the
reception desk during her lunch hour and fill in when the receptionist was absent because she was
the only black person in the human resources and accounting departments. Evidence in support of
these allegations is irrelevant to Wright’s action, but crucial to Clark’s action. Bernardi v. City of
Scranton, 101 F.R.D. 411, 413 (M.D. Penn. 1983). Further, the facts alleged in support of the sex
and age discrimination claims—the claims Wright alleges—also support the race discrimination
claim. Document #1 at 4, §§ 20-23. Untangling the race discrimination allegations and evidence
from the sex and age discrimination allegations and evidence, especially before a jury, will take
more time and effort than keeping them separate.
Finally, Clark’s action has proceeded further in the discovery process than Wright’s action.
“Consolidation may properly be denied in instances where the cases are at different stages of
preparedness for trial.” Mills v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 886 F.2d 758, 762 (8th Cir. 1989). Clark filed
suit approximately one year before Wright. Clark’s case is scheduled to go to trial the week of
May 8, 2017, while Wright’s case is not scheduled to go to trial until the week of October 16, 2017.
The discovery deadline in Clark’s case is February 23, 2017, while the deadline in Wright’s case is
not until August 2, 2017. While these discrepancies do not automatically preclude consolidation,
they show that consolidation likely would produce delay. According to Arkansas Steel, discovery
has not begun in Wright’s action, but the parties have conducted a significant amount of discovery
in Clark’s action. The parties have taken the depositions of Unami, Vice President of Operations Les
Philips, Safety Supervisor Bryce Shelton, and Robinson. The parties are in the process of
scheduling Clark’s deposition. Consolidating these actions likely would delay the resolution of
For the foregoing reasons, Clark’s motion to consolidate is DENIED. Document #33.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 5th day of January, 2017.
J. LEON HOLMES
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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