United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
December 11, 2014
LORETTA BURTON, Plaintiff
OZBURN HESSEY LOGISTICS, Defendant LORETTA BURTON, Plaintiff
OZBURN HESSEY LOGISTICS, Defendant
Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Blewitt, recommending that the civil actions Loretta Burton v. Ozburn Hessey Logistics, No. 14-1068, and Loretta Burton v. Ozburn Hessey Logistics, No. 14-1446, be consolidated. (No. 14-1068, Doc. No. 18; No. 14-1446, Doc. No. 7.) For the reasons that follow, the Court will adopt the Report and Recommendation, will consolidate Civil Action No. 14-1446 into Civil Action No. 14-1068, and will close Civil Action No. 14-1446.
On June 3, 2014 Plaintiff Loretta Burton filed a pro se complaint against Defendant Ozburn Hessey Logistics in the civil action docketed as Loretta Burton v. Ozburn Hessey Logistics, No. 14-1068. (No. 14-1068, Doc. No. 1.) That complaint brings claims for slander and defamation of character, in addition to claims arising out of unemployment workers’ compensation benefits. (Id.) The complaint appears to concern a November 23, 2011 work-related injury. (Id.) Defendant filed an answer to the complaint on July 10, 2014. (No. 14-1068, Doc. No. 8.) Subsequently, on July 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a second complaint in this court in the civil action docketed as Loretta Burton v. Ozburn Hessey Logistics, No. 14-01446. (No. 14-1446, Doc. No. 1.) As noted by Magistrate Judge Blewitt, “[a]gain, the Complaint [in No. 14-1446] arises out of Plaintiff’s November 23, 2011 injury, and appears to allege defamation of character related to the denial of workers compensation benefits.” (No. 14-1446, Doc. No. 7 at 2.)
On September 9, 2014, Magistrate Judge Blewitt issued an amended Report and Recommendation, in which he recommended that the Court consolidate the above-captioned actions into Civil Action No. 14-1068, and close Civil Action No. 14-1446. (No. 14-1068, Doc. No. 18; No. 14-1446, Doc. No. 7.) Plaintiff filed timely objections on September 22, 2014. (No. 14-1068, Doc. No. 19; No. 14-1446, Doc. No. 8.) Defendant thereafter filed a reply brief encouraging the Court to adopt the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Blewitt. (No. 14-1068, Doc. No. 21; No. 14-1446, Doc. No. 10.)
Magistrate Judge Blewitt recommends the court consolidate the above-captioned actions. (No. 14-1068, Doc. No. 18; No. 14-1446, Doc. No. 7.) Specifically, he concludes that the two complaints involve “common questions of law and fact” and should be consolidated pursuant to Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id.) Although Plaintiff’s objections are somewhat inscrutable, she appears to object on the grounds that consolidation of the actions would “violate [her] individual constitutional due process rights” and suggests that consolidation would affect her appeal. (No. 14-1068, Doc. No. 19; No. 14-1446, Doc. No. 8.)
Rule 42 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court may consolidate actions arising out of a common question of law or fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a). To facilitate the administration of justice, District courts are afforded broad power to consolidate actions, whether on motion of a party or sua sponte. Ellerman Lines, Ltd. v. Atl. & Gulf Stevedores, Inc., 339 F.2d 673, 675 (3d Cir. 1964). In considering consolidation, “the court must balance the savings of time and effort gained through consolidation against the prejudice, inconvenience, or expense that it might cause.” Demchak Partners Ltd. P'ship v. Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC., No. 13-2289, 2014 WL 4955259, at *10 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 30, 2014).
The Court agrees with Magistrate Judge Blewitt that the above-captioned actions are suited for consolidation, will adopt his recommendation, and will overrule Plaintiff’s objections. Both civil actions appear to arise out of the same set of facts: the termination of Plaintiff’s employment by Defendant, a November 23, 2011, work-related injury, and a workers’ compensation claim. Although in her objections Plaintiff confusingly characterizes her latter complaint as an appeal of a July 2014 decision by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, the Court’s review of Plaintiff’s one-page complaint indicates that its allegations, such as claims that Defendant communicated false, defamatory facts about Plaintiff in conjunction with her workers’ compensation requests, arise out of the same incidents as the earlier complaint. (No. 14-1446, Doc. No. 1.) Additionally, the Court finds that consolidation of these actions serves the efficient administration of justice. Both cases bring similar claims related to her termination and benefits and it would inconvenience the Court and the parties – and potentially prejudice the Defendant – to have them proceed as separate actions.
Although Plaintiff contends that consolidation would violate her due process rights, Rule 42(a) expressly provides that the Court may consolidate actions that involve a common question of fact or law. See Ellerman Lines, Ltd., 339 F.2d at 675. Accordingly, because the Court finds that Plaintiff’s two complaints arise out of the same facts – and because it further finds that consolidation is in the best interests of the efficient administration of justice – the Court will order the actions be consolidated pursuant to Rule 42(a). An order consistent with this memorandum follows.