A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Trial Court Erred in Refusing to Consolidate Plaintiff’s Lawsuits from Two Different Accidents

By on February 27, 2015 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

The Plaintiff Telma Moraes was injured in 2 different automobile accidents that occurred almost two years apart.   In the first accident, she injured her neck, back, and left knee. Less than one year after she filed a lawsuit as to the first accident, she was rear ended and again suffered injuries to her neck and back and aggravated her previous neck and back injuries. She then sued for her injuries suffered in her second accident and filed a motion to consolidate the two lawsuits. The trial court denied the motion and, in Moraes v. Didi Wesler & Simony Wesler, 2015 N.J. Super. LEXIS 23 (App. Div. Feb. 23, 2015), the plaintiff filed this appeal.

Court Rule 4:38-1 authorizes consolidation of actions “when actions involving a common question of law or fact arising out of the same transaction or series of transactions are pending in the Superior Court, the court on a party’s or its own motion may order the actions consolidated.” A court’s decision to grant or deny a party’s motion to consolidate actions is discretionary.

The Appellate Division noted that it would not disturb a trial court’s decision absent an abuse of discretion. In Moraes, the appeals court did find that the trial court abused its discretion by denying the motion to consolidate.

Although the liability issues involved separate question of law and fact, the liability of the respective defendant drivers appeared straightforward. Both drivers essentially admitted to be at fault from their actions.

As for damages, the actions did involve common questions of law and fact. Absent consolidation, two juries could reach inconsistent verdicts if the jury of the first case attributed the plaintiff’s continuing symptoms to the injuries she sustained in the second accident and the jury in the second case attributed the plaintiff’s continuing symptoms to permanent injuries she sustained in the first accident.

Thus, the Appellate Division found that there was no rational basis for the trial court to be concerned that the liability issues would somehow confuse the jury if tried together. Further, the trial court overlooked the possibility of inconsistent damage verdicts.  Hence, the Appellate Division found that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to consolidate the cases and reversed and remanded the cases back to be consolidated for discovery and trial.

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About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 25 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020 and 2021, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

“Best Law Firms” is published by Best Lawyers in partnership with U.S. News & World Report. For a description of the selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

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