Thompson v. Lane et al
RULING and ORDER denying 15 Motion to Consolidate Cases, without prejudice to Thompsons right to refile the motion once discovery is complete and the Court has ruled on any impending dispositive motions. Signed by Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson on 8/27/2013. (SMG)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
GERALD LANE, ET AL.
RULING AND ORDER
Before the Court is a Motion to Consolidate (Doc. 15), filed by Plaintiff Brian
Thompson (“Thompson”), seeking an order from this Court consolidating the above
captioned matter with the following civil matters: (1) No. 12-00503, Eric Angeletti v. Gerald
Lane, et al.; (2) No. 12-00522-BAJ-SCR, Marc DiLeo v. Gerald Lane, et al.; (3) No. 1200523, Timothy James v. Gerald Lane, et al.; (4) No. 12-00524, Justin Offord v. Gerald
Lane, et al.; (5) No. 12-00527, Dwayne Postell v. Gerald Lane, et al.; (6) No. 12-00528,
Byron Hall v. Gerald Lane, et al.; (7) No. 12-00529, Terry Bell v. Gerald Lane, et al.; (8) No.
12-00530, Tonya Harmason v. Gerald Lane, et al.; (9) No. 12-00531, Shawntel Johnson
v. Gerald Lane, et al.; and (10) No. 12-00532, Ubiel Gonzalez v. Gerald Lane, et al.
Defendants Gerald Lane, Gerry Lane Enterprises, Inc., Gerry Lane Buick-Pontiac-GMC,
LLC, Chubb Insurance Company, and Federal Insurance Company (collectively
“Defendants”) oppose the motion. (Doc. 20.) Oral argument is not necessary. The Court
has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
On August 17, 2012, Thompson and ten other current and former employees of
Defendants filed a single lawsuit against Defendants.1 (Doc. 1.) The complaint alleged,
inter alia, that Defendants unlawfully discriminated against Thompson and the ten other
Plaintiffs on the basis of their race, sex, and/or national origin, in violation of Title VII of the
Civil rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq. (“Title VII”) and the Louisiana
Employment Discrimination Law, La. R.S. § 23:301, et seq. On August, 24, 2012, the
Court issued an order, sua sponte, severing Plaintiffs’ single lawsuit into eleven separate
lawsuits.2 (Doc. 4.) Subsequently, Thompson filed an amended complaint (Doc. 6), and
the ten other Plaintiffs filed separate complaints, in compliance with the Court’s order.
As to the instant motion, Thompson seeks an order from this Court consolidating his
lawsuit with the ten other Plaintiffs’ lawsuits. In support of the motion, Thompson contends
that the majority of Defendants’ discriminatory acts took place in a communal environment
(i.e., morning staff meetings led by Defendant Gerry R. Lane). Thus, each Plaintiff is a
witness to Defendants’ discriminatory acts against the ten other Plaintiffs, and would be
required to testify at each of the eleven trials. Therefore, judicial economy necessitates
consolidating all eleven lawsuits, presumably, to limit duplicative testimony.
Defendants oppose the motion and argue that it should be considered a motion for
reconsideration, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 60, and denied by the
Ten of the eleven Plaintiffs were or are currently employed by Gerry Lane Enterprises, Inc. Plaintiff
Ubiel Gonzalez was employed by Defendant Gerry Lane Buick-Pontiac-GMC, LLC. (Doc. 1, ¶ 126.)
Rule 21 permits a Court to issue such orders sua sponte. Fed.R.Civ.P. 21 (“On motion or on its own,
the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party. The Court may also sever any claim against a
Court. In the alternative, Defendants contend that the scheduling orders issued by the
assigned United States Magistrate Judge addresses almost all of the efficiency concerns
raised by Thompson. Defendants further argue that the Court should not consider which,
if any, lawsuits should be consolidated for trial purposes until after it rules on any impending
Standard of Review
Rule 42(a) provides that when actions involving common questions of law or fact are
pending before the Court, the Court may consolidate the actions or conduct a joint hearing
or trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a); see also Miller v. United States Postal Service, 729 F.2d 1033,
1036 (5th Cir. 1984) (citing In re Air Crash Disaster, 549 F.2d 1006, 1013 (5th Cir. 1977)
(“Rule 42(a) should be used to expedite trial and eliminate unnecessary repetition and
confusion.”). The decision to consolidate is within the broad discretion of the court. Alley
v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 767 F.2d 138, 140 (5th Cir. 1985), Chatham Condominium Assns.
v. Century Village, Inc., 597 F.2d 1002, 1013-14 (5th Cir. 1979); see also In re EMC Corp.,
677 F.3d 1351, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (even where joinder is not permitted under Rule 20,
“the district court has considerable discretion to consolidate cases for discovery and for trial
under Rule 42 where venue is proper and there is only ‘a common question of law or
fact.’”). However, when assessing whether consolidation is appropriate, a court should
consider equity and judicial economy. Miller, 729 F.2d at 1037. Consolidation is improper
if it would prejudice the rights of the parties. St. Bernard Gen. Hosp., Inc. v. Hosp. Serv.,
Ass’n, 712 F.2d 978, 989 (5th Cir. 1983) (citing Dupont v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co.,
366 F.2d 193, 195-96 (5th Cir. 1966), cert. denied, 386 U.S. 958 (1967)).
Reconsideration of the Court’s Order Severing Plaintiffs
To the extent Thompson requests that the Court reconsider its previous order, such
a request concerns an order of the Court that did not dispose of all the claims or parties.
Thus, Thompson’s request is governed by Rule 54(b).
Rule 54(b) permits the Court to revise an interlocutory order “at any time before
entry of judgment adjudicating all of the claims and all the parties’ rights and liabilities.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b); Livingston Downs v. Jefferson Downs, 259 F.Supp.2d 471, 474-75
(M.D. La. 2002) (citing Zapata Gulf Marine, Corp. v. Puerto Rico Maritime Shipping
Authority, 925 F.2d 812, 815 (5th Cir. 1991)). District courts have considerable discretion
in deciding whether to reconsider an interlocutory order. Id. at 475. However, motions for
reconsideration based upon the same arguments previously submitted merely waste the
limited time and resources of the Court. Van Heerden v. Bd. of Supervisors of La. State
Univ. and Agricultural and Mechanical College, No. 10-155-JJB, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
61062, at *4, 2010 WL 2545746, at *1 (M.D. La. June 21, 2010). Further, courts generally
decline to consider arguments raised for the first time on reconsideration without adequate
justification. McClung v. Gautreaux, No. 11-263, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103114, at *3,
2011 WL 4062387, at *1 (M.D. La. Sept. 13, 2011).
As previously mentioned, on August, 24, 2012, the Court issued an order, sua
sponte, severing Plaintiffs’ single lawsuit into eleven separate lawsuits. (Doc. 4.) Thus,
Plaintiffs nor Defendants were given the opportunity to present arguments regarding
whether Plaintiffs’ claims should be severed. However, nothing in the record suggests, nor
has Thompson identified, any new developments since the Court’s August 24, 2012 ruling.
In other words, nothing in the record suggests, nor has Thompson identified, any new
issues of law or fact that would require the Court to reconsider and reverse its previous
ruling. Thus, to the extent Thompson requests the Court reconsider its August, 24, 2012
order, such request is denied.
Whether Thompson’s Lawsuit Should Be Consolidated with the
Ten Other Plaintiffs’ Lawsuits
In support of the motion, Thompson contends that there are common issues of fact
and law amongst Plaintiffs. Specifically, Thompson contends that at least ten of the eleven
Plaintiffs worked at the same location, that all of the Plaintiffs held the same position and
reported to the same management staff, and that all of the Plaintiffs have some claims in
common. Thompson further argues that:
[m]uch of the discrimination that occurred against plaintiff’s [sic] occurred in
a communal environment in morning meetings that were led by the owner of
Defendant Gerry Lane Enterprises, Inc., Gerald R. Lane with all plaintiff’s
[sic] present. Therefore, each plaintiff is a witness to the factual allegations
of the other plaintiffs. As such, separate trials would require each plaintiff to
testify as an individual witness at each of the other plaintiff’s trials. . . . they
would each be required to testify eleven times: Once at their trial and ten
other times at the trial of the other plaintiffs as they are each witnesses to the
other’s harassment and abuse.
(Doc. 15-1, p. 21.) Thompson further contends that because each of the eleven cases are
at the initial discovery phase, consolidation will not delay the trial.
In opposition, Defendants argue that by virtue of the scheduling order issued by the
assigned United States Magistrate Judge on November 29, 2012 (Doc. 19), almost all of
Thompson’s pretrial efficiency concerns have been addressed. Defendants point out that
the parties are still engaged in discovery, and argue that the Court should not consider
which, if any, of the cases should be consolidated for trial purposes until discovery is
complete and the Court rules on any impending dispositive motions.
Defendants, if Plaintiffs’ individual lawsuits are consolidated, jury confusion and prejudice
to the parties are likely. Defendants further argue that Thompson’s broad assertion that
each Plaintiff’s testimony would be admissible at the trial of each of the other Plaintiffs is
incorrect because of the individualized nature of Plaintiffs’ claims and the specific
evidentiary standards applicable to those claims.
As noted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in In re Air Crash
Disaster, 549 F.2d at 1013, Rule 42 should be used to expedite trial and eliminate
unnecessary repetition and confusion. While the Court recognizes that there are some
common issues of law and fact amongst Plaintiffs, a review of all eleven complaints reveals
more differences than similarities. For example, Plaintiffs’ claims under Title VII include
alleged discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and national origin, harassment on the
basis of race, sex, and national origin, constructive discharge, and retaliation. However,
there is not one type of claim under Title VII that all eleven Plaintiffs share. Further, while
all eleven Plaintiffs allege a wage payment claim under La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 23:631, only
one of the Plaintiffs alleges a claim under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of
1990, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., as amended.
In support of the motion, Thompson argues that “much” of the discrimination
occurred during staff meetings, and that each of the eleven Plaintiffs personally witnessed
Defendants discriminate against the other Plaintiffs. However, a review of all eleven
complaints reveals that, according to Plaintiffs, Defendants’ discriminatory acts were
effectuated by different actors and took place over the course of multiple years, at different
locations, and at different times of the day. Thus, it goes against logic that each of the
eleven Plaintiffs was a witness to each of the alleged discriminatory acts.
According to Thompson, separate trials would require each Plaintiff to testify as an
individual witness at each of the other Plaintiff’s trials. However, Thompson assumes,
without explanation, that such evidence would be admissible. Further, Thompson fails to
explain why such duplicative testimony would be “required.”
Moreover, even if the Court were to consolidate Plaintiffs’ individual lawsuits, each
Plaintiff would be required to present individual evidence, in an attempt meet the specific
evidentiary standards applicable to his or her claims. It would be unreasonable to expect
a jury to keep track of each of the eleven Plaintiffs’ individual claims, applicable evidentiary
standards, facts, testimony, and other evidence. It would also be unreasonable to expect
the jury to base their verdict solely on the evidence presented in each individual Plaintiffs’
case, rather than all of the evidence presented during the course of the trial. In sum, such
a trial would undoubtedly result in jury confusion, create a nightmare of jury instruction, and
likely result in prejudice to Defendant and individual Plaintiffs.
As previously noted, the parties are still engaged in discovery. At this stage of the
litigation, it is not clear if all eleven Plaintiffs will proceed to trial, if all eleven Plaintiffs will
pursue of each and every one of their individual claims at trial, whether Plaintiffs will rely
on different theories of liability to support their claims, or whether the trial of Plaintiffs’
claims will require the same testimonial evidence.
Thus, it is not clear whether
consolidation of Plaintiffs’ claims for trial purposes will result in judicial economy or
prejudice to the parties.
Accordingly, the Court shall deny Thompson’s motion to
consolidate at this time, without prejudice to Thompson’s right to refile the motion once
discovery is complete and the Court has ruled on any impending dispositive motions.
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff Brian Thompson’s Motion to Consolidate (Doc. 15)
is DENIED, without prejudice to Thompson’s right to refile the motion once discovery is
complete and the Court has ruled on any impending dispositive motions.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this 27th day of August, 2013.
BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?