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Blasko v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

August 8, 2007

MOLLY M. BLASKO, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF SALLY DEAN MCGHEE, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.
GREGORY E. SCHOENBORN, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF MARTHA S. SCHOENBORN, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document No.: 6

Document No.: 11

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF BLASKO'S PARTIAL CONSENT MOTION FOR CONSOLIDATION; GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR CONSOLIDATION

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiffs, Gregory Schoenborn and Molly Blasko, bring separate wrongful death and survival actions against the defendant, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a), the defendant moves for full consolidation of these actions, and plaintiff Blasko brings a partial consent motion for consolidation for discovery purposes only. Plaintiff Schoenborn opposes consolidation for any purpose. Because the actions name the same defendant, allege the same claims and arise out of the same incident, the court grants plaintiff Blasko's partial consent motion to consolidate the actions for discovery purposes. Because it is too early to tell if judicial economy outweighs the risk of prejudice to the plaintiffs, the court denies the defendant's motion to consolidate the actions for trial.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiffs allege that on February 14, 2007, Martha Schoenborn and Sally McGhee were lawfully crossing Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street N.W., Washington, D.C., when a bus struck and killed Schoenborn and McGhee. Schoenborn Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10; Blasko Compl. ¶¶ 8-13. The plaintiffs assert that the defendant owned the bus and employed the driver, Victor Kolako, who was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the incident. Schoenborn Compl. ¶ 9; Blasko Compl. ¶ 14.

On March 19, 2007, plaintiff Gregory E. Schoenborn, the husband and legal representative of Martha Schoenborn, filed a wrongful death and survival action against the defendant. On May 4, 2007, Molly E. Blasko, the sister and legal representative of Sally McGhee, filed suit against the defendant. At an initial status conference in the Schoenborn action on June 19, 2007, the court set discovery dates; the court expects to set discovery dates in the Blasko action at an initial status conference scheduled for August 28, 2007. On June 29, 2007, plaintiff Blasko moved to consolidate the actions for purposes of discovery, and on July 18, 2007, the defendant moved to consolidate the actions in their entirety. The court now turns to the pending motions.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for a Motion to Consolidate

Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[w]hen actions involving a common question of law or fact are pending before the court . . . it may order all the actions consolidated." FED. R. CIV. P. 42(a). By its plain language, Rule 42(a) permits sua sponte consolidation. In re Pepco Employment Litig., 1990 WL 236073, at *1 (D.D.C. Dec. 20, 1990); Devlin v. Transp. Commc'ns Int'l Union, 175 F.3d 121, 130 (2d Cir. 1999); A/S J. Ludwig Mowinckles Rederi v. Tidewater Constr. Co., 559 F.2d 928, 933 (4th Cir. 1977).

Consolidation of actions under Rule 42(a) is "a valuable and important tool of judicial administration." Devlin, 175 F.3d at 130 (internal quotations omitted). It helps to "relieve[] the parties and the [c]court of the burden of duplicative pleadings and [c]court orders." New York v. Microsoft Corp., 209 F. Supp. 2d 132, 148 (D.D.C. 2002). To determine whether consolidation is appropriate, a court should consider both equity and judicial economy. Devlin, 175 F.3d at 130. If "savings of expense and gains of efficiency can be accomplished without sacrifice of justice," a court may find the actions merit consolidation. Id. (internal quotations omitted).

Actions that involve the same parties are apt candidates for consolidation. 9 FED. PRAC. & PROC. CIV. 2D § 2384. Moreover, consolidation is particularly appropriate when the actions are likely to involve substantially the same witnesses and arise from the same series of events or facts. Davis v. Buffalo Psychiatric Ctr., 1988 WL 47355, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. May 10, 1988). If the parties at issue, the procedural posture and the allegations in each case are different, however, consolidation is not appropriate. Stewart v. O'Neill, 225 F. Supp. 2d 16, 21 (D.D.C. 2002). In short, "courts weigh ...


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