February 10, 2014
NORMAN WHALEY, Plaintiff,
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign corporation, Defendant.
Submitted: February 7, 2014
Upon Consideration of Defendant’s Motion to Consolidate GRANTED
Jeffrey J. Clark, Esquire, Schmittinger & Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware for Plaintiff.
Donald M. Ransom, Esquire, Casarino, Christman, Shalk, Ransom & Doss, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant.
ROBERT B. YOUNG J.
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ("Defendant") moves to consolidate the case, Norman Whaley v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, with two other cases before the Court: Erma Baines v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, C.A. No. K12C-11-048 WLW and Tanja Baines-Whaley v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, C.A. No. K12C-11-051 RBY. All three of these cases involve claims for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits, claimed as a result of two motor vehicle accidents. The Court must decide whether there are common issues of law or fact in all three cases pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 42. This is a series of actions in which one accident is common to all three PIP claims and the same medical expert has provided the treatment, although a second accident does involve one Plaintiff. The interest of judicial efficiency in consolidating the cases outweighs the risk of prejudice to parties. Therefore, Defendant's Motion to Consolidate is GRANTED.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Delaware Superior Court Civil Rule 42 (a), "when actions involving a common question of law or fact are pending before the Court, it may order a joint hearing or trial of any or all matters in issue in the actions; it may order all the actions consolidated; and it may make such orders concerning proceedings therein as may tend to avoid unnecessary costs or delay." The Court has broad discretion to consolidate cases for trial "so that the business of the Court may be dispatched with expedition and economy while providing justice to the parties."The Court must weigh any savings of time, effort or cost against the possibility of undue prejudice or confusion of the issues. Generally, consolidation is appropriate if the likelihood of jury confusion or undue prejudice does not outweigh judicial economy and efficiency.
According to Defendant, all of the cases sought to be consolidated involve common questions of fact and law. In Norman Whaley's ("Plaintiff") Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Consolidate, Plaintiff claims that in the case of Norman Whaley and Erma Baines, the matter does involve the same accident on December 22, 2011 and the same insurer. However, Plaintiff Tanja Baines-Whaley was injured in two separate accidents. Therefore, Plaintiff contends that the consolidation would be unfairly prejudicial to the parties due to the comparing of separate parties' injuries. Plaintiff's argument is not convincing. The allegation involved in Plaintiff Tanja Baines-Whaley's suit deals with the indivisibility of the cause of her injuries, and whether they are reasonable, necessary, and related to a December 4, 2010 accident, the December 22, 2011 accident, or both. Even so, a jury is not likely to suffer confusion by simple multiplicity of claims or to be disconcerted by the fact that some evidence will be admissible against some parties, but not others.
There is little argument confronting the proposition that Judicial economy would well serve by a consolidation of these cases. Additionally, the consolidation could well aid the jury in considering the various claims, and lead to a more fair and accurate verdict.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion to Consolidate is GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.