United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
WILMA J. CLARK PLAINTIFF
ARKANSAS STEEL ASSOCIATES, LLC DEFENDANT
OPINION AND ORDER
LEON HOLMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
J. Clark brings this action against her former employer,
Arkansas Steel Associates, LLC, alleging sex and
discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 and age discrimination in violation of the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).
Document #1. When Clark commenced this action on August 25,
2015, it was randomly assigned to the undersigned's
docket and given the case number 1:15CV00092. Mollie L.
Wright, also a former employee of Arkansas Steel, commenced
an action against Arkansas Steel on August 12, 2016, alleging
sex discrimination in violation of Title VII and age
discrimination in violation of the ADEA. The action was
randomly assigned to the Honorable Kristine G. Baker's
docket and given the case number 1:16CV00106. Clark has filed
a motion to consolidate these actions pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a). Document #33. Arkansas Steel
opposes consolidation. For the following reasons, the motion
for consolidation is denied.
and Wright maintain that the Court should exercise its
discretion to consolidate cases 1:15CV00092 and 1:16CV00106.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) governs the
consolidation of cases and provides:
actions before the court involve a common question of law or
fact, the court may:
(1) join for hearing or trial any or all matters at issue in
(2) consolidate the actions; or
(3) issue any other orders to avoid necessary cost or delay.
district court has broad discretion to determine whether two
actions should be consolidated. Enter. Bank v.
Saettele, 21 F.3d 233, 235 (8th Cir. 1994). The purpose
of consolidation is to promote convenience and judicial
economy, rather than to create a single action or change the
rights of the parties. United States v. Altman, 750
F.2d 684, 695 (8th Cir. 1984). The threshold question-which
Rule 42 directs the court to ask in order to determine
whether consolidation can achieve this purpose-is whether the
actions involve a common question of law or fact. If so, the
courts “weigh the saving of time and effort that
consolidation under Rule 42(a) would produce against any
inconvenience, delay, or expense that it would cause for the
litigants and the trial judge.” 9A Charles Alan Wright
& Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and
Procedure, § 2383 (3d ed. 2016) (citing Arnold
v. Eastern Airlines, 681 F.2d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 1982)
(listing factors courts should weigh).
and Wright argue that consolidation would facilitate judicial
economy because they allege that a common defendant engaged
in a pattern and practice of discrimination and because they
have each retained the same counsel. Document #31 at 1. While
some common factual threads run through the actions-Clark and
Wright were both female employees of Arkansas Steel who
allege they were discriminated against during the years 2014
and 2015-the differences between the actions are significant
and mitigate any saving of time and effort that consolidation
would produce. First, it is true that there are some facts
common to both actions. The most obvious are that Arkansas
Steel employed Clark and Wright, who are both women. Both
women were passed over for promotions. Younger men were
promoted instead. And the complaints allege that the women
interacted with the same individual in charge of human
resources-Brian Robinson. But the factual similarities end
there. Clark worked in the H.R. department under Robinson.
Wright worked in the shipping department and interacted with
Robinson concerning complaints she had after the company
president, Ted Unami, hired a younger, less qualified male to
fill a position for which Wright had applied.
and Wright's narratives do not overlap. While Clark
insists in support of her motion to consolidate that Arkansas
Steel engaged in a “pattern and practice” of
unlawful discrimination, that is not the gist of either
complaint. Rather, the complaints describe two separate,
discrete series of incidents that occurred at the same place
and involved some of the same people. But see E.E.O.C. v.
HBE Corp., 135 F.3d 543, 551 (8th Cir. 1998) (upholding
the district court's decision to consolidate two Title
VII actions where the plaintiffs based their claims on the
same series of incidents). Those overlapping people-Robinson
and Unami-have already been deposed in the Clark action, but
they presumably have not been asked about anything relevant
to Wright's action. Because they have already been
deposed, any saving of time and effort that consolidation
would produce during discovery has been forfeited.
Clark has alleged race discrimination, while Wright has not.
The bulk of Clark's complaint alleges facts pertaining to
this theory. Clark alleges that she was required to cover the
reception desk during her lunch hour and fill in when the
receptionist was absent because she was the only black person
in the human resources and accounting departments. Evidence
in support of these allegations is irrelevant to Wright's
action, but crucial to Clark's action. Bernardi v.
City of Scranton, 101 F.R.D. 411, 413 (M.D. Penn. 1983).
Further, the facts alleged in support of the sex and age
discrimination claims-the claims Wright alleges-also support
the race discrimination claim. Document #1 at 4, §§
20-23. Untangling the race discrimination allegations and
evidence from the sex and age discrimination allegations and
evidence, especially before a jury, will take more time and
effort than keeping them separate.
Clark's action has proceeded further in the discovery
process than Wright's action. “Consolidation may
properly be denied in instances where the cases are at
different stages of preparedness for trial.” Mills
v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 886 F.2d 758, 762 (8th Cir.
1989). Clark filed suit approximately one year before Wright.
Clark's case is scheduled to go to trial the week of May
8, 2017, while Wright's case is not scheduled to go to
trial until the week of October 16, 2017. The discovery
deadline in Clark's case is February 23, 2017, while the
deadline in Wright's case is not until August 2, 2017.
While these discrepancies do not automatically preclude
consolidation, they show that consolidation likely would
produce delay. According to Arkansas Steel, discovery has not
begun in Wright's action, but the parties have conducted
a significant amount of discovery in Clark's action. The
parties have taken the depositions of Unami, Vice President
of Operations Les Philips, Safety Supervisor Bryce Shelton,
and Robinson. The parties are in the process of scheduling
Clark's deposition. Consolidating these actions likely
would delay the resolution of Clark's claims.
foregoing reasons, Clark's motion to consolidate ...