BOROUGH OF EDGEWATER v. WATERSIDE CONSTRUCTION, LLC et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge John Michael Vazquez on 5/3/17. (sr, )
Not For Publication
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
BOROUGH OF EDGEWATER,
Civ. Action No. 14-5060 (JMV)
WATERSIDE CONSTRUCTION, LLC, fT
This matter comes before the Court on the application of Defendant Alcoa1 for
consolidation pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a).
consolidation of the above matter with North River Mews Associates, LLC et al. v. Alcoa
Corporation et al., No. 2:14-cv-08129 (D.N.J.) (the “North River Matter”), which is currently
pending before Judge Arleo and Magistrate Judge Wettre.
Plaintiff opposes this motion.2
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, the Court did not hear oral argument on this
issue. After reviewing all submissions of the parties in support of and in opposition to the
motion, the Court grants in part and denies in part Alcoa’s motion. Additionally, the Court sua
Defendant Alcoa includes Alcoa Inc. and Alcoa Domestic LLC, as successor in interest to
Defendant A.P. New Jersey, Inc. D.E. 191 at 1.
Alcoa’s brief in support of its motion to consolidate will be referred to hereinafter as “Alcoa’s
Br.” (D.E. 191); Plaintiffs opposition to Alcoa’s motion will be referred to “P1. Opp’n” (D.E.
198); and Alcoa’s reply brief in further support of its motion will be referred to hereinafter as
“Alcoa R.Br.” (D.E. 209).
sponte appoints a Special Master to oversee discovery and case management of the consolidated
The North River Matter
The Second Amended Complaint filed in the North River Matter alleges, in relevant part,
that it is an action concerning environmental contamination on property (the “Alcoa Site”),
which was sold to Plaintiffs in that matter. No. 14-8 129, D.E. 2$
1-5. Plaintiffs purchased
the property from Alcoa, and subsequently discovered a variety of contaminants on the site as
well as two undisclosed underground storage tanks. Id.
¶ 3, 14-16. Plaintiffs allege that Alcoa
fraudulently failed to disclose the existence of the tanks prior to the sale. Id.
seek money from Alcoa to rernediate the Alcoa Site. Id.
¶ 17. Plaintiffs now
In response, Alcoa filed a
counter-claim alleging that the North River Plaintiff contractually agreed to indemnify and
defend Alcoa from any and all environmental risk associated with the Alcoa Site upon its
purchase. No. 14-08 129, D.E. 6. Thus, “[t]he dispute centers around interpretation of various
contracts and documents related to the Alcoa Defendants’ sale of the [f]ormer Alcoa Site to the
North River Plaintiffs.” P1. Opp’n at 2.
The Edgewater Matter
Similarly, the Complaint filed in the current matter, Borough of Edgewater v. Waterside
Construction, LLC et al., No. 2:14-cv-05060 (D.N.J.) (the “Edgewater Matter”), sterns from
contamination at the Alcoa Site. Specifically, Edgewater alleges that tainted material was taken
from the Alcoa Site and unloaded on Veteran’s field, an Edgewater public park. No. 14-5060,
49-54, 79-83. As a result, Edgewater filed this suit against a number of allegedly
responsible parties, including North River and Alcoa, seeking to recover its costs to remediate
Veteran’s Field. Id. Additionally, Alcoa brought a Third-Party Complaint against River Road
Improvement Phase II, Inc. (“RRIP”)3 based on the contracts between Alcoa and the Defendants.
No. 14-5060, D.E. 23
The North River Matter and the Edgewater Matter both plead counts pursuant to the
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) and the
New Jersey Spill Act (the “Spill Act”), among other causes of action.
Alcoa seeks consolidation of these matters because both cases share common questions
of law and fact.
Alcoa Br. at 10-11.
First, both cases require interpretation of the same
contracts, argues Alcoa, and require the Court to determine whether the agreements “(1) permit
North River and RRIP to maintain their claims against Alcoa, and (2) require North River and
 to indemnify Alcoa for [polychlorinated biphenyl,] PCB cleanup.”
Id. at 11. Alcoa
continues that the parties in both cases seek discovery about the presence of contamination at the
Alcoa Site. Id. Alcoa also argues that maintaining separate actions could lead to conflicting
interpretations of the same contracts, and that consolidating the cases would streamline the
pending discovery process in each case and conserve judicial resources. Id. at 12-17.
Plaintiff responds that there are not issues of law or fact common to these matters. P1.
Opp’n at 9. Instead, Plaintiff asserts that the Edgewater Matter relates to crushed concrete from
the Alcoa Site that was brought to Veteran’s Field, while the North River Matter relates to
underground storage tanks. Id. Further, Plaintiff alleges that the interpretation of contractual
obligations between Alcoa and North River is irrelevant to Edgewater’s claim in the Edgewater
Matter, since it only bears on Alcoa’s indemnification rights from North River, “which
represents one isolated derivative of the many claims in the Edgewater Matter.” Id. at 11.
RRIP is a special purpose entity related to North River.
The current motion is brought pursuant to federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a), which
When actions involving a common question of law or fact are
pending before the court, it may order a joint hearing or trial of any
or all the matters in issue in the actions; it may order all the actions
consolidated; and it may make such orders concerning proceedings
therein as may tend to avoid uimecessary costs or delay.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(a). Local Civil Rule 42.1, in turn, provides that “[a] motion to consolidate two
or more civil cases pending upon the docket of the Court shall be filed in the case bearing the
earliest assigned docket number. That motion shall be adjudicated by the Judge to whom that
case is assigned.” Because the Edgewater Matter bears the earlier docket number, the motion is
being decided by this Court.
Rule 42(a) gives the district court “broad powers to consolidate actions involving
common qtcestions of law or fact if, in its discretion, such consolidation would facilitate the
administration of justice.” Liberty Lincoln Mercitiy, Inc. v. Ford Mktg. Corp., 149 F.R.D. 65,
80 (D.N.J. 1993) (emphasis in original) (quoting Waste Distillation Tech., Inc. v. Pan Am. Res.,
Inc., 775 F. $upp. 759, 761 (D. Del. 1991); see also In re Mock, 398 F. App’x 716, 718 (3d Cir.
Rule 42(a) contemplates consolidation for pretrial purposes only.
Beecham Corp. v. Geneva Pharm., Inc., No. 00-1393, 2001 WL 1249694, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Sept.
26, 2001). The purpose of consolidation is “to streamline and economize pretrial proceedings so
as to avoid duplication of effort, and to prevent conflicting outcomes in cases involving similar
legal and factual issues.” In re TMILitig., 193 F.3d 613, 724 (3d Cir. 1999). Accordingly, “[un
the absence of an articulated basis to assert confusion or prejudice, consolidation is generally
appropriate.” A.F.LK. Holding SFRL v. Fass, 216 F.R.D. 567, 570 (D.N.J. 2003).
First, common questions of fact support consolidation. For instance, both cases involve
the same contracts executed in conjunction with the sale of the Alcoa Site. See Nye v. IngersollRand Co., Nos. 08-3481, 08-4260, 08-5371, 200$ WL 5070692, at *7 (D.N.J. Nov. 24, 2008)
(consolidating actions when each case made “identical claims” based on the interpretation of the
same contract). Specifically, both matters require the Court to decide whether the 1997 contracts
(1) permit North River and RRIP to maintain their claims against Alcoa; and (2) require North
River and RRIP to indemnify Alcoa. Therefore, there are common issues of fact to both cases.
Plaintiffs argument largely hinges on the different types of alleged contamination in each
North River focuses on the underground storage tanks, and Edgewater on the crushed
concrete used at Veteran’s Field. P1. Opp’n at 9-10. Additionally, Plaintiff argues that the
purchasing contracts are only relevant to the Edgewater Iviatter for indemnification purposes. Id.
at 11. However, the contamination in each case is the same, including PCB pollution, and is
from the same location, the Alcoa Site. Moreover, indemnification is also an important issue in
the Edgewater Matter because it may impact Plaintiffs ability to recover if it is successful. The
issue will also be relevant if the parties in the Edgewater Matter attempt to resolve the case short
There are also common issues of law. Both cases involve New Jersey contract law,
CERCLA and the Spill Act. Thus, there are issues of law common to both matters.
Additionally, consolidation of the above matters will serve judicial efficiency and reduce
unnecessary costs. Given the common questions of fact and law mentioned above, discovery in
both cases will likely involve many of the same documents and witnesses. Such duplication of
effort and time by the parties would result in a waste of judicial resources (in addressing the
same issues in two separate proceedings) and unnecessary costs to the parties. See $mithkline
Beecham Corp., 2001 WL 1249694, at *5 (“[C]onsolidation for pretrial purposes avoids
duplication of effort and the delay and expense of separate depositions and motions schedules.”).
Because the Court finds that common questions of fact and law exist between the
Edgewater and North River Matters, and that consolidation of these matters would promote
judicial efficiency, Alcoa’s motion to consolidate is granted for purposes of case management
and pretrial matters only.4
Additionally, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 53 permits the court to appoint a special
master to “perform
 time consuming or detailed tasks that the district court judge or a
magistrate judge would be less efficient in accomplishing.” Indus. Tech. Research Inst. v. LG
Corp., No. 12-949, 2014 WL 12621188, at *1 (D.N.J. Oct. 9,2014). Courts in this Circuit have
appointed special masters to oversee and facilitate complex discovery. Id.; see also Grider v.
Keystone Health Plan Cent., Inc., 580 F.3d 119, 126 (3d Cir. 2009) (noting that following the
appointment of a special discovery master to help move discovery along, who conducted weekly
meetings and intensive monitoring, discovery began to run more smoothly).
Since the Court is consolidating the matters for pretrial purposes only at this time, this ruling
does not address Plaintiffs arguments about the effects of consolidation on dispositive motions
and trial. Prior to the filing of summary judgment motions, the Court will hear the parties as to
whether continued consolidation is appropriate.
Due to the extensive and complicated nature of the discovery in the above-consolidated
case, this Court finds that the appointment of a Special Master pursuant to Rule 53 is appropriate.
This Court hereby appoints Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh (Ret.) as Special Master in this case.5
In sum, the Court grants in part and denies in part Alcoa’s motion to consolidate. Alcoa’s
motion is granted for all case management and pretrial purposes and denied as to summary
judgment motions and trial. Prior to the filing of summary judgment motions, the parties may
address the issue of whether the Edgewater and North River Matters should be consolidated for
the remainder of the litigation. This Court sita sponte appoints Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh
(Ret.) as special master.
Date: May 3,2017
John Michael Vazque) U$J.J.
Madeline C. Arleo, U.$.D.J.
Leda D. Wettre, U.S.M.J.
James B. Clark, III, U.S.M.J.
Dennis M. Cavanaugh, Ret.
The scope of the Special Master’s authority is outlined in this Court’s Order accompanying this
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