United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
DREW E. BURBRIDGE and JENNIFER L. BURBRIDGE, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Consolidate Discovery. (ECF No. 52) The motion is fully
briefed and ready for disposition. Upon review of the motion,
responses in opposition by Plaintiffs Drew and Jennifer
Burbridge ("the Burbridges") and Movants, and reply
brief from the Defendants, the Court finds that consolidation
of discovery is not warranted in this case.
case stems from public protests following the not guilty
verdict in the First Degree Murder trial of Jason Stockley
("Stockley Verdict") in the City of St. Louis,
Missouri. (Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 47) The Burbridges are
documentary filmmakers who came to St. Louis on September 17,
2017 to document the ongoing protests. (Id. at
¶ 4) The Burbridges allege that during the
photographing, recording, and filming of the protestors and
police, police officers kettled the assembled protestors,
bystanders, and media, including the Burbridges, and deployed
chemical agents. (Id. at ¶¶ 28-38) The
Burbridges further aver that certain police officers
assaulted Plaintiff Drew Burbridge and took both Burbridges
into custody. (Id. at ¶¶ 41-71)
September 26, 2017, the Burbridges filed a Complaint against
the City of St. Louis, Missouri and several John Doe officers
in their individual and official capacities
("Burbridge case"). (ECF No. 1) The
Burbridges filed two amended complaints, naming two of four
officers whose identities were revealed through the course of
discovery. (ECF Nos. 29, 47) The Burbridges now represent to
the Court that they have identified all of the John Doe
defendants and seek to file a third amended complaint. (ECF
counts alleged against Defendants in the Burbridges'
Second Amended Complaint include violation of the
Burbridges' rights to freedom of speech and freedom of
press (Count I); First Amendment retaliation (Count II);
Fourth Amendment violation for unlawful search and seizure
and use of excessive force (Count III); Fourteenth Amendment
violation of the Burbridges' right to procedural due
process (Count IV); assault and battery (Counts V and VI);
false imprisonment (Counts VII and VIII); failure to
instruct, train, supervise, control and/or discipline (Count
IX); malicious false prosecution (Count X); and conspiracy to
deprive civil rights (Count XI). (ECF No. 47)
addition to the Burbridges' cause of action, 22 other
lawsuits pertaining to the Stockley Verdict and related
protests have been filed in federal court. On January 3,
2019, Defendants filed a motion to consolidate the discovery
in the Burbridge case with discovery in those other
pending cases. (ECF No. 52)
42(a) of the Federal Rules of civil Procedure governs
consolidation of cases and provides: "[i]f actions
before the court involve common questions of law or fact, the
court may join for hearing or trial any or all matters at
issue in the actions; consolidate the actions; or issue any
other orders to avoid unnecessary cost or delay."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a). A district court has broad discretion in
determining whether to order consolidation. Enter. Bank
v. Saettele, 21 F.3d 233, 235 (8th Cir. 1994). "The
threshold issue is whether the proceedings involve a common
party and common issues of fact or law. . . . The mere
existence of common issues, however, does not mandate that
the cases be joined." A.O.A. v. Doe Run Res.
Corp., No. 4:11 CV 44 CDP, 2016 WL 1182631, at *2 (E.D.
Mo. Mar. 28, 2016) (internal citation omitted). The purpose
of consolidation is to promote convenience and economy in the
administration of actions. Saettele, 21 F.3d at 235
(citation omitted). However, consolidation is not appropriate
if it leads to inefficiency, inconvenience, or unfair
prejudice to a party. E.E.O.C. v. HBE Corp., 135
F.3d 543, 551 (8th Cir. 1998).
maintain that consolidation of discovery in the cases
involving the 2107 protests after the Stockley Verdict is
appropriate because the Burbridges have alleged claims that
are virtually identical to the claims asserted by the
plaintiffs in the other cases. Defendants further aver that
discovery will require duplication in all the pending cases,
at least with respect to claims of custom and policy of the
St. Louis City police. The Defendants acknowledge that they
have filed motions to dismiss in the other pending actions.
Defendants also admit that the present cause of action by the
Burbridges is more advanced than the other cases and that not
all claims arise out of the same incident. Defendants argue,
however, that because the cases overlap with respect to legal
and factual issues, the Court should order consolidation of
discovery to ensure coordination and efficiency.
Burbridges and third-party movants Alex Nelson and Iris
Nelson and Michael Faulk respond that, while all 23 cases
occurred within the same timeframe and stem from the same
events, the specific dates and individual circumstances are
different. The Burbridges further contend that consolidation
would create unnecessary delay in their case, which has been
ongoing for over a year, and would cause a burden on counsel
for the Burbridges, who does not represent any of the other
plaintiffs. The Burbridges' counsel, however, has
expressed a willingness to accommodate the Defendants on key
shared witness depositions related to "pattern and
practice" which could be accomplished through mutual
agreement as opposed to an order of consolidation. The
attorneys representing the movants have also expressed such
willingness to meet and confer regarding shared depositions.
the Court understands Defendants position as a party to all
23 cases, the Court notes that the present case is much
further along than the other cases. The parties have engaged
in written discovery and have participated in ADR once, with
a second referral to ADR scheduled in months. The Burbridges have
identified the officers involved and are ready to begin
taking depositions. Conversely, the other pending cases do
not have Case Management Orders in place, and they contain
pending motions to dismiss and/or are awaiting responses to
the amended complaints. In light of the wide variance of
procedural stages between the Burbridge case and the
other pending cases, the Court finds that consolidation is
inappropriate. See, e.g., A.O.A. v. Doe Run Res.
Corp., 2016 WL 1182631, at *2 (finding consolidation
would be inefficient and inconvenient where the parties were
at different procedural stages and the newer cases had not
begun even initial discovery); Northstar Marine, Inc. v.
Huffman, Nos. 13-0037-WS-C, 14-0205-KD-M, 2014 WL
4167019, at *3 (S.D. Ala. Aug. 21, 2014) (finding
consolidation would cause undue delay in adjudication of the
older action where the new case had not begun discovery and
the parties and court would be forced to wait for the newer
action to catch up); Conley v. Stryker Corp., No.
11-3287-CV-S-ODS, 2011 WL 6888561, at *1 (W.D. Mo. Dec. 28,
2011) (holding that consolidation would be inefficient and
inconvenient because the cases were at widely varying
procedural stages); Fin-Ag, Inc. v. NAU Country Ins.
Co., No. CIV. 08-4141-KES, 2009 WL 44479, at *3 (D.S.D.
Jan. 6, 2009) ("Because the cases are at much different
stages of preparation and litigation, consolidation would
cause further delay and, thus, is not appropriate.").
Although the cases related to the Stockley Verdict do not
warrant consolidation, the Court is confident that the
parties in all of the cases will be able to work together in
good faith and allow discovery to carry over to avoid
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants'
Motion to Consolidate ...