State Court Consolidations

State Court Consolidations Definition

The legal definition of a consolidation is “the union of two or more claims or actions at law for trial or appeal.” A state court consolidation is when two or more cases in the same state are similar enough that they may be consolidated into one case. This is beneficial for all parties and usually involves one defendant with a claim against them involving a defective design, manufacturing defect, recall, or other area of product liability law.

How Does A State Court Consolidations Work?

Each state has its own policies for how state court consolidations work. For example, the Michigan state courts were reformed in 1995 when a chief justice saw a need for “the concept of consolidating local trial courts into one trial court of general jurisdiction as well as administrative and technological integration and budget uniform its reforms.” The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) put out a report that studied this consolidation and recommended it to improve the quality of legal services provided to the public.

Sometimes the concept of consolidation can be left to the county. For example in Harris County of Texas, a motion to consolidate any two or more cases must be filed in the court where the first case was filed and is currently pending. The consolidated cases will be given the number of the first case and assigned to that initial court if the motion to consolidate is granted.

State Court Consolidations and Product Liability

State court consolidations often happen in product liability cases, such as defective medical devices and dangerous drugs, wherein more than one patient was injured in a similar manner with similar results. These plaintiffs often seek damages against the same defendant, usually the manufacturer of the product, their marketer, or the entity who sold it to them.

Unlike a mass tort or multidistrict litigation lawsuit, state court consolidations must remain in the state the plaintiffs have filed suits in. So plaintiffs in New York and in Texas may not consolidate their cases in state court, but plaintiffs in Austin and Houston can file for a state court consolidation.

Similar to mass tort and multidistrict litigation lawsuits, these plaintiffs can come together in a state court consolidation case to offer their testimony during trial, present evidence, and collect any settlements together. These settlements are usually divided by severity of injury.