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L.G. v. Brock

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

October 10, 2019

L.G., as the parent and natural guardian of JANE DOE, a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
CARRIE BROCK, MACK BURGESS, HESTER GADSDEN, and WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendants.

          ORDER & OPINION

          DONALD C. COGGINS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the parties Joint Motion to Consolidate Discovery and Pre-Trial Proceedings brought pursuant Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Local Rules of this Court, and this Court's inherent authority, which seeks to consolidate all discovery, motions hearings, and pre-trial proceedings in this matter (“Case 1”) with L.C., as the parent and natural guardian of JANE DOE, a minor vs. CARRIE BROCK, MACK BURGESS, HESTER GADSDEN, AND WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Civil Action No. 4:18-cv-02270-DCC (“Case 2”). The Joint Motion to Consolidate also seeks a consolidated scheduling order. For the reasons set forth herein, the parties Joint Motion to Consolidate Discovery and Pre-Trial Proceedings is granted. Consolidation of these two proceedings for the discovery and pre-trial stages of litigation is appropriate because: (1) the resolution of these two pending proceedings will involve common questions of law and fact; (2) the risk of inconsistent determinations regarding the legal issues raised in these two pending proceedings outweighs any risk of prejudice arising from consolidation; and (3) consolidation of these pending matters will promote judicial economy without imposing any burden or prejudice on any party.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Both cases involve Title IX and 1983 causes of action which allege damages arising from student on student sexual assault that occurred at Kingstree Middle Magnet School during the 2015-2016 school year. The named Defendants, Plaintiffs' counsel, and Defendants' counsel in both cases are identical. The named Plaintiffs are different but Plaintiff's counsel represents both plaintiffs in the respective actions.

         On June 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action (Case 1). The Plaintiff in Case 1 is the representative/mother of a minor female student (“Jane Doe 1” or “JD1”) who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a male student in the girls' bathroom at KMMS during school hours on January 7, 2016.

         On August 15, 2018, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in Case 2 which is captioned as L.C., as the parent and natural guardian of JANE DOE, a minor vs. CARRIE BROCK, MACK BURGESS, HESTER GADSDEN, AND WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Civil Action No. 4:18-cv-02270-DCC. The Plaintiff in Case 2 is the representative/mother of a minor female student (“Jane Doe 2” or “JD2”) who alleges she was sexually assaulted by three (3) male students in the bathroom/locker area at KMMS during school hours on February 26, 2016. One of the three male students involved in the alleged assault upon JD2 was the same male student involved in the alleged sexual assault on JD1 less than two (2) months prior.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a), a court may consolidate actions if they involve a “common question of law or fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a). “[A] motion to consolidate must meet the threshold requirement of involving a common question of law or fact...then whether to grant the motion becomes an issue of judicial discretion.” Pariseau v. Anodyne Healthcare Mgmt., Inc., No. 3:04-cv-630, 2006 WL 325379, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Feb. 9, 2006). Indeed, “courts have broad discretion” to consolidate cases under Rule 42(a). A/S J. Ludwig Mowinckles Rederi v. Tide water Constr. Co., 559 F.2d 928, 933 (4th Cir.1977). When determining the appropriateness of consolidation, the Fourth Circuit has directed that a court consider the following factors:

[T]he risk of inconsistent adjudications of common factual and legal issues, the burden on the 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.

Arnold v. E. Air Lines, Inc., 681 F.2d 186, 193 (4th Cir.1982).

         These factors can be broken down into two categories: those that favor consolidation, including risk of inconsistent adjudications, burden on the parties, judicial economy, and time and expense saved by consolidation; and those factors that weigh against consolidation, including prejudice, jury confusion, and time and expense created by consolidation. See Pariseau, 2006 WL 325379, at *2. Although a court must consider all of these factors, “judicial economy generally favors consolidation.” Switzenbaum v.. Orbital Science Corp., 187 F.R.D. 246, 248 (E.D.Va.1999).

         B. Both Pending Proceedings Involve Common Questions of Law.

         The legal issues raised, and those that will be raised, in the two lawsuits support consolidation of these actions. In both cases, the plaintiffs allege Title IX and 1983 causes of action. See generally e.g., Compl., ¶¶ 52-83 (ECF No. 1); L.C., as the parent and natural guardianof JANE DOE, a minor vs. CARRIE BROCK, MACK BURGESS, HESTER GADSDEN, AND WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Civil Action No. 4:18-cv-02270-DCC, Compl. ΒΆΒΆ 62-91. The defendants have also asserted substantially similar affirmative defenses in both actions. The plaintiffs in both actions have identified the ...


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