Hicks v. Moore et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Ellen L. Hollander on 2/25/14. (c/m apls, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
DARRELL LEE HICKS
ROBERT LESTER GROVE, et al.
DARRELL LEE HICKS
LT. D. MOORE, et al.
Civil Action No. ELH-12-1422
Civil Action No. ELH-13-2592
Pending before the Court is defendants’ Motion to Consolidate Cases (“Motion,” ECF 54
in ELH-12-1422), filed on January 17, 2014. The first of the cases that defendants seek to
consolidate was filed on May 10, 2012, by plaintiff Darrell Lee Hicks, who is currently an
inmate at the Eastern Correctional Institute in Westover, Maryland (the “2012 Action”). ECF 1
in ELH-12-1422. In his Complaint, Hicks alleged that Deputy First Class Robert Lester Grove
and Deputy First Class Samuel Lee Younker, Jr. assaulted him on April 8, 2012, while he was a
pretrial detainee at the Washington County Detention Center (“WCDC”), and that Sergeant
Robert Long failed to respond reasonably to the assault. Id. Through counsel appointed by the
Court,1 Hicks amended his complaint on January 15, 2014.
See ECF 45, ECF 48 in ELH-12-1422.
The Amended Complaint named WCDC as an additional defendant and included nine
Counts: (1) violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 as against the WCDC; (2) violation of the Maryland Constitution as against the
WCDC; (3) a state law claim of negligent supervision and/or retention as against the WCDC; (4)
a state law claim of respondeat superior as against the WCDC; (5) violation of the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as against Defendants Grove
and Younkers; (6) violation of the Maryland Constitution as against Defendants Grove and
Younkers; (7) a state law claim of battery as against Defendants Grove and Younkers; (8)
violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
as against Defendant Long; and (9) violation of the Maryland Constitution as against Defendant
The second case was filed by Hicks on September 5, 2013 (the “2013 Action”). ECF 1 in
ELH-13-2592. Hicks, who is self-represented in the second case, alleged that, in the period just
prior to and just after the alleged assault that formed the basis of the 2012 Action, he was
deprived of drinking water while he was held in solitary confinement as a pretrial detainee at
WCDC. ECF 1 in ELH-13-2592. The defendants in the 2013 Action are Lieutenant D. Moore,
Lieutenant Hose, Lieutenant E. Long, Officer G. Sell, and Major Martin V. Evans. Id.2
On January 17, 2014, the defendants in both actions moved to consolidate Mr. Hicks’ two
claims for purposes of discovery and trial. Id. Mr. Hicks, through his assigned counsel in the
2012 Action, filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion to Consolidate. (“Opp.,” ECF 56 in
In his Complaint, Mr. Hicks also re-asserted the same claims against Grove, Younker,
and Long that he had asserted in the 2012 Action. Accordingly, I dismissed those claims as
duplicative of those in the 2012 Action. ECF 3. Further, WCDC was named as a defendant, but
I dismissed the claim against WCDC under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Id.
ELH-12-1422). Defendants did not file a reply.
For the reasons that follow, I will deny
defendants’ motion to consolidate.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow federal district courts to consolidate multiple
actions when the claims “involve a common question of law or fact.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 42.
District courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to consolidate cases pending in the
same district. Dring v. Faust, 2013 WL 657638, at *1 (D. Md. Feb. 21, 2013) (citing Arnold v.
E. Air Lines, Inc., 681 F.2d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 1982)). In exercising their discretion under Rule
42, “courts should weigh the interests of judicial convenience in consolidating the cases against
the delay, confusion, and prejudice consolidation might cause to the parties.”
Promotions, Inc. v. Dock St. Enterprises, Inc., 2011 WL 6141058, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 8, 2011)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
The moving party bears the burden of showing that
consolidation is preferable to separate trials. Id.
Here, defendants offer five reasons they believe justify consolidation. First, “both cases
arise from the same period of Plaintiff’s detention at the Washington County Detention Center.”
Motion at 1. Second, both cases involve the same plaintiff. Id. Third, the named defendants
were all employed by the Sheriff’s Office in Washington County during the times at issue. Id.
Fourth, “the substance of the Plaintiff’s Complaints are similar or overlapping, with allegations
of mistreatment and deliberate dehydration alleged in each matter.” Id. Fifth, that consolidation
would be “in the best interests of justice and judicial efficiency.” Id. The Motion is sparse; it
contains no factual or legal analysis beyond these five statements.
With regard to defendants’ first three arguments, defendants are correct that the two
actions arose from the same period of pretrial detention, involve the same plaintiff, and are
brought against defendants with a shared employer. However, these similarities are superficial at
best, and they do not mandate the conclusion that the two actions involve a “common question of
law or fact,” as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 42. Indeed, the claims in the two cases arise from
distinct events, allege different types of conduct, and are asserted against different individual
Defendants’ fourth point, that the substance of the complaints are similar, is equally
unpersuasive. The core issue in the 2012 Action is whether an alleged assault violated the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which will require, inter alia, an inquiry into
“‘whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or
maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.’” Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 37 (2010) (quoting
Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992)). In contrast, the 2013 Action concerns conditions of
confinement, i.e., whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was violated
when the detainee was denied access to fresh water. As such, although both claims arose from
Mr. Hicks’s detention at WCDC, the substance of the claims involves markedly different
allegations, facts, and legal issues, and thus cannot be considered similar for purposes of
Lastly, defendants fail to support their claim that consolidation would further the interests
of justice and judicial efficiency. See Engler v. Harris Corp., 2012 WL 5193818 at *6 (D. Md.
Oct. 18, 2012) (“[I]t is unclear whether a single consolidated trial would take less courtroom
time than separate trials, especially given that Plaintiffs’ claims all stem from different sets of
facts.”). In my view, consolidation is not likely to reduce discovery, as different sets of facts are
at issue, and any time saved through consolidation may be outweighed by the unwieldiness of a
single action encompassing distinct facts, evidence, and theories of liability. Moreover, even
without formal consolidation, the parties can schedule depositions such that any witness with
information relevant to both cases is deposed only once. And, to save the parties and the
witnesses the time and expense of conducting separate depositions, and to avoid establishing the
same background facts twice—such as a witness’s personal information, educational
background, and employment history—I will require a single deposition of those witnesses with
knowledge of facts pertinent to both cases.
Defendants have not met their burden to show that consolidation is preferable to allowing
the two cases to proceed separately. Accordingly I will deny the Motion. However, I will do so
without prejudice to a renewed motion in the event that discovery reveals that the two cases in
fact share a common factual or legal basis.
Date: February 25, 2014
Ellen Lipton Hollander
United States District Judge
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