Lighthill v. McDaniel et al
ORDER: Accordingly, the Motions to Consolidate Related Cases for Trial (Case No. 3:16-cv-2608, Doc. No. 61; Case No. 3:17-cv-00363, Doc. No. 30) are hereby DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to refiling upon completion of discovery. These two cases are hereb y RETURNED to Magistrate Judge Holmes for further pretrial case management. IT IS SO ORDERED. Signed by Chief Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr on 7/20/17. (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(af)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
SHARI DODD and ROBERT
WAYNE DODD, JR.,
Chief Judge Crenshaw
DAVID K. MCDANIEL and
Chief Judge Crenshaw
DAVID K. MCDANIEL; and
LANDSTAR INWAY, INC.,
In these cases that arose out of a motor vehicle accident and which have been consolidated
for case management and discovery purposes, Defendants have filed a “Motion to Consolidate
Related Cases for Trial.” (Case No. 3:16-cv-2608, Doc. No. 61; Case No. 3:17-cv-00363, Doc. No.
30). Plaintiffs in both cases oppose that request. (Case No. 3:16-cv-2608, Doc. No. 65; Case No.
3:17-cv-00363, Doc. No. 34).
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide:
(a) Consolidation. If actions before the court involve a common question of law or
fact, the court may:
(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 unnecessary cost or delay.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(a). “Whether cases involving the same factual and legal questions should be
consolidated for trial is a matter within the discretion of the trial court, and the court’s decision is
reviewed for abuse of discretion.” Cantrell v. GAF Corp., 999 F.2d 1007, 1011 (6th Cir. 1993)
(citing Stemler v. Burke, 344 F.2d 393, 396 (6th Cir. 1965)). “The underlying objective is to
administer the court’s business ‘with expedition and economy while providing justice to the
parties.’” United States ex rel. Cook v. Cmty. Health Sys., Inc., 2015 WL 10934319, at *1 (M.D.
Tenn. Feb. 25, 2015) (quoting Advey v. Celotex Corp., 962 F.2d 1177, 1180 (6th Cir. 1992)).
In moving to consolidate the trials, Defendants assert that the actions involve essentially
identical questions of law and fact, inasmuch as each is a personal injury lawsuit that arose out of
the same motor vehicle accident, and Ms. Lighthill and Ms. Dodd were in the same vehicle.
Further, the Complaints in the two cases are virtually identical, and present the same factual
allegations and legal theories. As such, and because the only differentiating issue relates to
damages, Defendants submit that consolidating the cases will result in judicial economy. This is
because fact and expert witnesses on liability will only need to testify once, the possibility of
inconsistent verdicts will be reduced if not eliminated, and the length of time required to conclude
the two suits will be significantly reduced.
In response, the Plaintiffs in the two cases submit that the commonalities between the two
cases begin and end with the accident at issue. Beyond that, their injuries were vastly different, with
Ms. Lighthill likely calling up to six different health care provides to testify as to damages, and Ms.
Dodd calling an additional sixteen providers who treated her. They also assert that the damages
testimony for each could last up to two days, and that there would be only a marginal savings in
court time because a consolidated trial would probably take seven to eight days, while a single trial
would last around five days, with the prospect that the second trial would not even have to be
conducted once the parties reevaluate their positions based upon the verdict in the first trial.
In a case involving similar circumstances (i.e., personal injuries arising out of a motor
vehicle accident in which one plaintiff was the driver and the other a passenger) and similar
arguments, the court in Groh v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2011 WL 13680, at *2 (S.D. Ohio
Jan. 3, 2011) opted to consolidate the actions for purposes of discovery only, and to deny without
prejudice a motion to consolidate for trial until after discovery was completed. See also Schone v.
Auto. Club Inter-Ins. Exch., 2014 WL 11485716, at *2 (D. Kan. July 31, 2014) (consolidating cases
for all pretrial proceedings but deferring ruling on motion to consolidate trial until the final pretrial
conference). The Court finds this to be the prudent approach because once discovery has been
concluded, the Court will be in a better position to evaluate the pros and cons of consolidating the
cases for trial and whether such consolidation will prejudice any of the parties.
Furthermore, and depending on what the discovery evidence shows, it may be appropriate
to consolidate the cases on the issue of liability and try the damages issues separately, which would
avoid Defendants’ concerns about inconsistent verdicts. See Gray v. Ratanchandani, 2016 WL
6433040, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 31, 2016) (consolidating motor vehicle accident cases for purposes
of liability but not damages where “the medical testimony is likely to be different and could
prejudice either or both of the plaintiffs if their damages claims were tried together”); see generally,
Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b) (providing that “[f]or convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and
economize, the court may order a separate trial as of one or more separate issues or . . . claims”).
This, too, is an issue best addressed after discovery has been completed.
Accordingly, the Motions to Consolidate Related Cases for Trial (Case No. 3:16-cv-2608,
Doc. No. 61; Case No. 3:17-cv-00363, Doc. No. 30) are hereby DENIED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE to refiling upon completion of discovery. These two cases are hereby RETURNED
to Magistrate Judge Holmes for further pretrial case management.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR.
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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