Legal Memorandum: Consolidation of Cases in CA

Issue: When is it appropriate to consolidate cases against a defendant in California?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Consolidate cases; Common question of law or fact
Jurisdiction: California, Federal
Cited Cases: 720 F. Supp. 805
Cited Statutes: Cal. Code Civ. P. § 1048(a); Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a)
Date: 02/01/2013

A court may in its discretion, upon motion of a party, consolidate “actions involving a common question of law or fact” pending before the court and further may “make such orders concerning proceedings therein as may tend to avoid unnecessary costs or delay.”  Cal. Code Civ. P. § 1048(a).  See Todd-Stenberg v. Dalkon Shield Claimants Trust (1996) 48 Cal. App. 4th 976, 978-79 (decision to consolidate cases is within discretion of trial court).  In determining whether to consolidate cases, the court weighs judicial convenience against the potential for delay, confusion and prejudice.  Southwest Marine, Inc. v. Triple A. Mach. Shop, Inc. (N.D. Cal. 1989) 720 F. Supp. 805, 807.*FN1  See Todd-Stenberg, 48 Cal. App. 4th at 978-79 (issue in deciding whether to consolidate is whether cases have common issues and whether undue confusion or prejudice is likely to result from the consolidation); Takeda v. Turbodyne v. Technologies, Inc. (C.D. Cal. 1999) 67 F. Supp. 2d 1129, 1132 (“[I]n deciding whether to consolidate actions . . . , a court must balance the savings of time and effort consolidation will produce against any inconvenience, delay, confusion or prejudice that may result.)

There is no reason to believe that a jury would not be capable of keeping any case-specific evidence separate.  In any event, to the extent that any risk of confusion or prejudice exists, it may be alleviated by cautionary instructions to the jury and controlling the manner in which plaintiffs’ claims and defendants’ defenses […]

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