Estate Planning and Business Law

Consolidation of Actions

The court may consolidate cases which involve common questions of law or fact, or involve identical parties with causes that could have been joined in a single action. California Code of Civil Procedure §1048(a) states in pertinent part:

"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 the 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."

There are two types of consolidation: (1) a complete consolidation resulting in a single action; and (2) a consolidation of separate actions for trial. Complete consolidation is appropriate where the parties are identical and the causes could have been joined at the outset. In such circumstances, the pleadings are regarded as merged, one set of findings is made, and one judgment is rendered. Further, the courts have wide discretion in granting or denial of the motion to consolidate, and a lower court’s decision will normally not be reversed except upon a clear showing of abuse of discretion. It is highly unlikely that an appellate court will find a consolidation order to be an abuse of discretion.

Where the actions at issue present essentially the same or overlapping issues, they may be consolidated and disposed of as a single proceeding. Consolidation of actions may also be appropriate and not an abuse of discretion even though the parties to both actions are not identical.

Consolidation of action serves to promote convenience and conserve judicial resources by avoiding unnecessary costs, delays, and duplication when actions involving common questions of law or fact are pending before the court. The courts tend to avoid unnecessary costs or delay. The purpose underlying consolidation of actions is to promote trial convenience and economy by avoiding duplication of procedure, particularly in the proof of issues common to both actions. The purpose of consolidation is to enhance trial court efficiency (i.e., to avoid unnecessary duplication of evidence and procedures); and to avoid the substantial danger of inconsistent adjudications (i.e., different results because tried before different juries, or a judge and jury, etc.) The moving party needs to show that the issues in each case are basically the same, and that “economy and convenience” would be served by a joint trial.

Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.350 sets forth the procedural requirements for a Consolidation motion, as follows:

"(a) Requirements of motion

(1) A notice of motion to consolidate must:

(A) List all named parties in each case, the names of those who have appeared, and the names of their respective attorneys of record;

(B) Contain the captions of all the cases sought to be consolidated, with the lowest numbered case shown first; and

(C) Be filed in each case sought to be consolidated.

(2) The motion to consolidate:

(A) Is deemed a single motion for the purpose of determining the appropriate filing fee, but memorandums, declarations, and other supporting papers must be filed only in the lowest numbered case;

(B) Must be served on all attorneys of record and all nonrepresented parties in all of the cases sought to be consolidated; and

(C) Must have a proof of service filed as part of the motion.

(b) Lead case.

Unless otherwise provided in the order granting the motion to consolidate, the lowest numbered case in the consolidated case is the lead case.

(c) Order.

An order granting or denying all or part of a motion to consolidate must be filed in each case sought to be consolidated. If the motion is granted for all purposes including trial, any subsequent document must be filed only in the lead case.

(d) Caption and case number.

All documents filed in the consolidated case must include the caption and case number of the lead case, followed by the case numbers of all of the other consolidated cases."

Further, there is no deadline for ordering consolidation;, cases may even be consolidated on the eve of trial, under certain circumstances.

Blackwell, Santaella & Jahangiri, LLP specializes in business and corporate law, business, commercial and real estate litigation, estate planning, probate and elder law. We are located in San Ramon. We are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. To make an appointment please call 925-359-3233.