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Doe YZ v. Shattuck-St. Mary's School

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 4, 2016

Doe YZ, Plaintiff,
v.
Shattuck-St. Mary's School, Defendant. Doe XY, Plaintiff,
v.
Shattuck-St. Mary's School, Defendant. Doe AB, Plaintiff,
v.
Shattuck-St. Mary's School, Defendant.

          Jeffrey R. Anderson, Esq., and Trusha Patel Goffe, Esq., Jeff Anderson & Associates, P.A., Saint Paul, MN, on behalf of Plaintiffs.

          Stephen O. Plunkett, Esq., Steven P. Aggergaard, Esq., and Jessica L. Klander, Esq., Bassford Remele, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANN D. MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for consideration of Plaintiffs Doe YZ, Doe XY, and Doe AB's (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) Motion to Consolidate Cases for Trial [Docket No. 93].[1] Defendant Shattuck-St. Mary's School (“Shattuck”) opposes the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' Motion is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND[2]

         These cases arise from alleged sexual abuse at Shattuck approximately fifteen years ago. Shattuck is a private boarding and day school located in Faribault, Minnesota. The three Plaintiffs each allege sexual abuse by former Shattuck teacher Lynn Seibel (“Seibel”) while they were students at the school. Each of them seeks to hold Shattuck liable for the abuse under theories of negligence, negligent supervision, and negligent retention.

         On October 5, 2016, Shattuck's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 57] was denied. The cases are now ready for trial. Plaintiffs seek to consolidate the three cases for trial. If that request is denied, Plaintiffs alternatively request that the cases be tried in the order they were filed, with Doe YZ being tried first. Shattuck opposes consolidation. Shattuck also opposes trying Doe YZ's case first.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instructs that a court may order consolidation of pending actions that “involve a common question of law or fact.” “The party seeking consolidation bears the burden of showing that it would promote judicial convenience and economy.” Powell v. Nat'l Football League, 764 F.Supp. 1351, 1359 (D. Minn. 1991). Consolidation is inappropriate “if it leads to inefficiency, inconvenience or unfair prejudice to a party.” EEOC v. HBE Corp., 135 F.3d 543, 551 (8th Cir. 1998). However,

consolidation is not barred simply because the plaintiffs may be relying on different legal theories or because there are some questions that are not common to all the actions; the critical considerations, as in other contexts of the Federal Rules, is whether there is at least one common question of law or fact to justify bringing the actions together . . . .

         9A Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane, Richard L. Marcus, A. Benjamin Spencer & Adam N. Steinman, Fed. Practice & Procedure, § 2384 (3d ed. 2008). A motion to consolidate is entrusted to the sound discretion of the district court. Enter. Bank v. Saettele, 21 F.3d 233, 235 (8th Cir. 1994).

         There are many common questions of law and fact among the three cases. Most importantly, each case alleges that Shattuck is liable for the sexual abuse by Seibel under the same legal theories. Since the abuser, the Defendant, and the causes of action are common in each case, there is no risk of the jury being confused about which Defendant is liable to which Plaintiff under which legal theory. Moreover, each Plaintiff was abused by Seibel during the same general time period, and each Plaintiff's testimony about their encounters with Seibel will be both personal and unique, diminishing any concern that the jury will blend the three Plaintiffs into one.

         All of the three Plaintiffs are represented by the same counsel and Shattuck's defense team are all lawyers in the same law firm. If the Plaintiffs' cases were tried separately, ...


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