Sometimes parties to a lawsuit will find themselves in a situation in which multiple Plaintiffs are suing a particular Defendant for the same cause of action and/or based on the same facts. This most often occurs in a class action lawsuit, however it is possible for this to occur without a class action lawsuit when a class is denied certification. When this occurs the parties have the option to either consolidate or coordinate their case. Simply put, when a lawsuit is consolidated or coordinated the court will combine the pleadings, judgments, and findings in order to keep the cases more organized and to avoid conflicting judgments. CCP § 1048.
So, what is the Difference Between Consolidation and Coordination?
The main difference between case consolidation and case coordination lies in the court’s discretion to describe the case as being complex or non-complex. In deciding whether to deem a case as being complex versus non-complex courts will use 5 factors to come to a determination. These factors can be found in CRC 3.400(a):
1. Numerous pre-trial motions raising difficult or novel issues that will be time consuming to resolve;
2. Management of a large number of witnesses or substantial documentary evidence;
3. Management of a large number of separately represented parties;
4. Coordination with related actions pending in one or more courts in other counties, states, or countries, or in federal court; and/or
5. Substantial post judgment judicial supervision.
Essentially if there are a large number of complicated issues or a large number of parties that would cause the court to have to spend additional time on an individual plaintiff’s case then the court would more likely deem the case to be complex. Once a court has come to a decision on whether to deem a case complex or non-complex it will play a key role in whether a lawsuit can or cannot be consolidated.
If the court determines that a particular lawsuit is complex the only way the lawsuits can be consolidated is if all cases seeking consolidation are filed and pending in the same court. If they are filed in the same court the fact that the cases are deemed complex will not make a difference and the judge has the discretion to allow the cases to be consolidated. If however, the cases wishing to be consolidated are filed and pending in separate courts the only option available to the parties is case coordination.
In the alternative if two or more lawsuits involving similar circumstances are considered non-complex are filed and pending in different courts then the judge has discretion to transfer one or more of the cases to one court and then consolidate the cases thereby combining them. All of the aforementioned information then leads to the simple conclusion that if two or more lawsuits involving similar facts and situations are non-complex and are filed and pending in the same court then they can be consolidated with little difficulty.
What is Case Coordination?
Case Coordination is similar to case consolidation, however unlike case consolidation where two or more cases are literally combined together case coordination merely causes two or more cases involving similar issues or facts to be tried together. It is also a more cumbersome method. CCP § 403.
What is Case Consolidation?
Case Consolidation, like stated above, occurs when two or more cases with similar facts, circumstances, issues, and/or parties filed and pending in the same court, or when transferred from a different court and non-complex are combined together in order to increase judicial efficiency and avoid contradicting judgments. Consolidation can be further broken down into two categories: Complete Consolidation and Consolidation for Trial Only.
Complete consolidation is simple, all pleadings, findings of fact, and judgments are combined, meaning that when the judge makes a final ruling on one issue; that ruling applies to all plaintiffs, and/or defendants.
Consolidation by Trial is a little more complex, when two or more cases are consolidated by trial only the pleadings, findings, and judgments are kept separate; the actions are simply tied together for the sake of convenience. A good example of lawsuits that could be consolidated for trial only would be multiple personal injury lawsuits filed against a single defendant. For example, imagine multiple lawsuits brought by plaintiffs against a single defendant in the business of providing tours to tourists when one of the defendant’s tour buses crashed and injured many of the passengers.
While all the plaintiffs’ causes of action would be the same their injuries and damages would be extremely different. Some plaintiffs would be suing for something as simple as a bruised hand, whereas others would be suing for broken bones and other severe injuries. Not only that but the damages in that particular case would be extremely different with some plaintiffs suing for thousands of dollars and others suing for tens and hundreds of thousands. In that situation it would make little to no sense to completely consolidate the case because one judgment for damages would not be sufficient for all plaintiffs. Instead the court would make a judgment as to whether the defendant was liable for the accident, and then calculate individual plaintiffs’ damage reward.
For more information on how Webb Bordson, APC can help you with your case please contact us at:
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