United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636, the Rules of this Court, and Chief Judge Varlan's
Order of referral [Doc. 7]. Now before the Court is
Plaintiff's Motion to Consolidate [Doc. 5], filed on
January 11, 2018. Defendant Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.,
(“Jacobs”) filed a response [Doc. 14] in
opposition on January 30, 2018. For the following reasons,
the Court will DENY Plaintiff's motion.
December 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Jacobs
for personal injuries he alleges were sustained as a result
of Plaintiff's workplace exposure to toxic coal fly ash
at the Tennessee Valley Authority Superfund Cleanup Site at
the Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant in Kingston, Tennessee. [Doc.
1]. Plaintiff submits that Jacobs failed to properly monitor
the fly ash at the cleanup site, protect him from fly ash
exposer, and disclose the toxic nature of fly ash.
Court entered a related case Order [Doc. 4] on January 5,
2018, finding that the instant matter is related to
Adkisson, et al., v. Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.,
No. 3:13-CV-505, because “these cases arise out of the
same transaction or occurrence and involve one or more of the
same parties.” Consolidation, however, was not ordered.
[Id.]. Adkisson is consolidated with other
cases in certain respects. Adkisson, serving as the
lead case, was completely consolidated with Thompson, et
al., v. Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., 3:13-CV-666, and
Cunningham, et al., v. Jacobs Engineering Group,
Inc., 3:14-CV-20, on July 10, 2014. [Doc. 35 in
Adkisson, 3:13-CV-505]. These cases were late
consolidated with five more related cases for the limited
purpose of discovery and motion practice. [Doc. 56 in
Adkisson, 3:13-CV-505]. Finally, on January 30,
2017, a total of 10 case (“the Consolidated
Cases”) were consolidated for discovery, motion
practice, and Phase I of a bifurcated trial. [Doc. 136 in
Adkisson, No. 3:13-CV-505]. Presently, the
Consolidated Cases are set for Phase I of trial on September
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a), Plaintiff now moves
the Court to consolidate the instant case with the
Positions of the Parties
explains that he developed multiple myeloma on or around
March 2017, as a result of working at the fly ash cleanup
site, and that his condition “is strongly related to
the blood cancers exhibited by a number of plaintiffs in the
already consolidated actions.” [Doc. 6 at 3-4].
Although his claim did not accrue until several years after
the inception of the Consolidated Cases and subsequent to the
bifurcated trial plan, Plaintiff argues that the most
efficient means of adjudicating his claim is through
consolidation as this case and the Consolidated Cases present
substantial overlap in addressing whether Jacobs owed a legal
duty, whether Jacobs breached that duty, and whether
Jacobs' breach is the general cause of the injuries
alleged by all the plaintiffs.
to Plaintiff, denial of the instant motion would create
“a significant risk of inconsistent adjudication of
these common factual and legal issues” shared in the
cases, and independent adjudication would further render
“a substantial burden on the parties, witnesses, and
available judicial resources.” [Id. at 4].
Moreover, Plaintiff submits that Jacobs and the consolidated
plaintiffs would not be unduly prejudiced or burdened because
the instant case is not expected to delay proceedings or
Phase I of trial despite “some independent discovery
deadlines” likely needed to be set. [Id. at
opposes consolidation on the grounds that the cases are at
vastly different stages, consolidation would unduly delay
proceedings in the Consolidated Cases, and Jacobs would be
unfairly prejudiced. Jacobs submits that because discovery
has been completed, expert disclosure deadlines have expired
with the exception of supplementation of existing reports,
the dispositive motion deadline is two months away, Phase I
of trial would likely be delayed again if Plaintiff is
permitted to join at such a late juncture of the proceedings.
Furthermore, Jacobs reasons that consolidating the instant
case would essentially allow plaintiffs in the Consolidated
Cases to reopen discovery, which they have attempted to do at
no avail. Finally, citing to an earlier order by the District
Court in the Consolidated Cases, Jacobs submits that the risk
of inconsistent adjudication of common facts and legal issues
is alleviated due to the judicial officers in the
Consolidated Cases presiding over the instant matter.
Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a)(2) states that a court may
consolidate actions that “involve a common question of
law or fact.” A court may exercise its
“discretion to consolidate actions only if it first
determines that there is a common question of law or
fact.” WCM Industries, Inc. v IPS
Corp., No. 2:13-cv-02019, 2013 WL 3349182, * 2 (W.D.
Tenn. July 2, 2013). “The party moving for
consolidation bears the burden of demonstrating the
commonality of law, facts or both in cases sought to be
combined, and the court must examine the special underlying
facts with close attention before ordering a
consolidation.” Id. (quoting Banacki v.
OneWest Bank, FSB, 276 F.R.D. 567, 571 (E.D.
deciding whether to consolidate, a court should consider
whether the specific risks of prejudice and possible
confusion posed by consolidation are:
overborn by the risk of inconsistent adjudications of common
factual and legal issues, the burden on parties, witnesses
and available judicial resources posed by multiple lawsuits,
the length of time required to conclude multiple suits as
against a single one, and the relative expense to all
concerned of the single-trial, multiple-trial alternatives.
Cantrell v. GAF Corp., 999 F.2d 1007, 1011 (6th Cir.
1993) (quoting with approval Hendrix v.
Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 776 F.2d 1492 (11th Cir.
1985)). Importantly, “[c]onsolidation is not justified
or required simply because the actions include a common
question of fact or law.” Hasman ...