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CIS Communications, L.L.C. v. Republic Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 10, 2019

CIS COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
REPUBLIC SERVICES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Consolidation. (Doc. 15.) Defendants seek to consolidate Pietoso, Inc. v. Republic Services, Inc., No. 4:19-cv-00397-RLW (hereinafter “Pietoso”), with this case before the undersigned. (Id.) Plaintiff CIS Communications Inc. (“CIS”) opposes the motion. (Doc. 18.)

         Background

         CIS filed this case on March 1, 2019, arguing that Defendants had unilaterally increased their fees for waste removal services in violation of its contract with CIS. (Doc. 1.) CIS asserted claims of breach of contract and declaratory judgment and sought to represent a class defined as:

All persons and entities in the United States that, pursuant to a Service Agreement or substantially similar contract with Republic or a subsidiary or affiliate, paid a flat fee for waste disposal services and whose fee was increased by Defendants for reasons not authorized by the contract.

(Id. at ¶ 86.)

         That same day, Pietoso, Inc. D/B/A Café Napoli also filed suit against the same two Defendants, also asserted breach of contract and declaratory judgment claims and also sought to represent a class defined as:

All persons and entities in the United States that, pursuant to a Service Agreement or substantially similar contract with Republic or a subsidiary or affiliate, paid a flat fee for waste disposal services and whose fee was increased by Defendants for reasons not authorized by the contract.

(Pietoso, Doc. 1 at ¶ 86.)

         On March 25, 2019, Defendants filed this motion, seeking to consolidate this case and Pietoso before the undersigned, arguing that the cases are factually identical, propose identical classes, and are being litigated by the same counsel on both sides. (Doc. 15.) CIS opposes consolidation, arguing that there are material factual differences that make consolidation improper and prejudicial. (Doc. 18.)

         Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42, “actions before the court [that] involve a common question of law or fact” may be: “join[e]d for hearing or trial”; “consolidate[d]”; or otherwise managed “to avoid unnecessary cost or delay.” “The Court has broad discretion to order consolidation.” 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) (citing Enterprise Bank v. Saettele, 21 F.3d 233, 235 (8th Cir. 1994)). The threshold consolidation inquiry is “whether the proceedings involve a common party and common issues of fact or law.” A.O.A. v. Doe Run Res. Corp., No. 4:11 CV 44 CDP, 2016 WL 1182631, at *2 (citing HBE Corp., 135 F.3d at 551). That said, “[t]he mere existence of common issues . . . does not mandate that the cases be joined.” Id. (citing Northstar Marine, Inc. v. Huffman, Nos. 13-0037-WS-C, 14-0205-KD-M, 2014 WL 4167019, at *2 (S.D. Ala. Aug. 21, 2014)).

         Because the primary benefit of consolidation is judicial economy, “[c]onsolidation is inappropriate . . . 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). Moreover, “for convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may [consolidate cases but] order a separate ...


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