United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston
BENNY FITZWATER, and CLARENCE BRIGHT, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
CONSOL ENERGY, INC., and CONSOLIDATION COAL CO., and FOLA COAL CO., LLC, and CONSOL OF KENTUCKY, INC., and KURT SALVATORI Defendants. EMMETT Y, JR., and CONNIE Z. GILBERT, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
CONSOL ENERGY, INC., CONSOLIDATION COAL CO., BUCHANAN MINING CO., LLC, and KURT SALVATORI Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
T. Copenhaver, Jr. United States District Judge.
before the court is the motion to consolidate the
above-styled cases filed on September 29, 2017 by the
defendants in the Casey matter (ECF No. 11) with notice given
in the Fitzwater case that same day (ECF No. 85).
cases seek to certify a class of retired mine workers whose
medical, prescription drug, dental, vision, and life
insurance benefits were terminated by defendants in 2014 or
2015. See Fitzwater Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Certify Class
at 2; Casey Compl. at 9, 24.
Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) covers the matter of
consolidation and provides as follows:
(a) Consolidation. If 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 unnecessary cost or
Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(a). “[C]laims brought against the
same defendant, relying on the same witnesses, alleging the
same misconduct, and answered with the same defenses, clearly
meet” the standard of Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a). Harris v.
L & L Wings, 132 F.3d 978, 981 n.2 (4th Cir. 1997).
is appropriate when doing so will foster clarity, efficiency,
and the avoidance of confusion and prejudice. Allfirst
Bank v. Progress Rail Servs. Corp., 178 F.Supp.2d 513,
520 (D.Md. 2001) (citing Arnold v. Eastern Airlines,
681 F.2d 186, 192-93 (4th Cir. 1982)). “District courts
have broad discretion under F.R. Civ. P. 42(a) to consolidate
causes pending in the same district.” A/S J. Ludwig
Mowinckles Rederi v. Tidewater Constr. Corp., 559 F.2d
928, 933 (4th Cir. 1977). Our court of appeals has identified
factors to guide the district courts in exercising this
The critical question for the district court in the final
analysis [is] whether  the specific risks of prejudice and
possible confusion [are] overborne by the risk of
inconsistent adjudications of common factual and legal
issues,  the burden on 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 681 F.2d at 193.
in the Casey matter argue that all of the factors favor
consolidation of the action with Fitzwater. Defs.' Mem.
Supp. Mot. Consolidation at 6. Plaintiffs respond that they
do not oppose consolidation of the cases for the purposes of
discovery, but they do not consent to the consolidation for
any other purposes at this time. Pls.' Resp. Defs.'
Mot. Consolidation at 1. Plaintiffs emphasize that the
“factual allegations and many of the witnesses are
distinct in these cases because they involve two separate
groups of mine sites in different regions, meaning the two
cases would necessarily proceed under independent tracks as
distinct subclasses even if they were ultimately consolidated
for trial.” Id.
appears to the court that consolidation of these matters is
appropriate because both proposed classes bring claims
raising the same factual and legal issues. Both cases are
brought against substantially similar defendants and assert
the same seven causes of action for the same termination
of retiree benefits. These benefits were terminated at the
same time and in the same manner for the putative class
members in both actions. See Fitzwater Am. Compl. at
¶¶ 25-27; Casey Compl. at ¶¶ 24-26.
Although the proposed class in Casey worked at different mine
sites from the proposed class in Fitzwater, all of the sites
at issue were operated by CONSOL Energy, Inc. and its
subsidiaries. Additionally, the ...