United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE SARA LIOI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are the separate but related motions of plaintiff
UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside (“UPMC”) and
defendant Fleet Owners Insurance Fund (“Fleet”)
to consolidate this instant action (“UPMC
lawsuit”) with another action pending before this
Court: McHugh v. Trinity Health Systems, No.
1:17-cv-1413 (“McHugh lawsuit”). (Doc.
No. 11 [“UPMC Mot.”]; Doc. No. 24 [“Fleet
Mot.”].) For the reasons discussed herein the motions
to consolidate the UPMC lawsuit with the
McHugh lawsuit are GRANTED.
5, 2017, Fleet Owners Insurance Fund (“the Fund”)
and Sharon and Charles McHugh (“McHugh
plaintiffs”) filed the McHugh lawsuit in
federal court. It is undisputed that the Fund is a nonprofit
Taft-Hartley multiemployer health and welfare insurance fund
formed by Teamsters Local 964 (“the Union”) and
participating employers with collective bargaining
agreements. Charles McHugh belongs to the Union and his wife
is Sharon McHugh.
McHugh plaintiffs sued the Fund's administrator,
Medical Mutual Services, LLC (“MMS”), and various
medical services providers-including UPMC-who had provided
more than $1, 200, 000 in medical services to Sharon McHugh.
The McHugh plaintiffs alleged that the defendant
medical service providers were fiduciaries, pursuant to the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”), and that they breached their duty to
the Fund and, by extension, the McHughs. Each medical service
provider moved to dismiss the claims against it under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), each asserting that the
medical service provider did not qualify as fiduciaries under
ERISA. MMS also moved for partial judgment of the pleadings,
under Rule 12(c), requesting that the Court dismiss the state
law claims against it as preempted under ERISA.
25, 2018, the magistrate judge issued a report and
recommendation (“R&R”), recommending that the
Court dismiss all claims against the medical services
providers-including UPMC-and all state law claims against
MMS. After overruling the McHugh plaintiffs'
objections, the Court entered an order adopting the R&R,
leaving only Count 1 (breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA)
against MMS. Thus, the remaining issue in the McHugh case is
whether Fleet owes UPMC more money for Sharon McHugh's
medical care, or whether Fleet does not owe more money
because MMS should have more properly vetted the allegedly
improper claims and bills.
January 22, 2019, UPMC sued the Fund and two of its trustees,
seeking payment for medical services rendered by UPMC to
Sharon McHugh and another unnamed patient (“Patient
2”). (Doc. No. 1. [“Compl.”] ¶¶
86-87, 97-98.) In its complaint, UPMC asserts claims against
the Fund for (1) benefits covered under ERISA, (2) breach of
ERISA fiduciary duties, (3) failure to disclose plan
documents, (4) breach of contract, (5) conversion, and (6)
unjust enrichment. The McHughs are not parties to the
UPMC lawsuit. Patient 2 is not a party in the
McHugh lawsuit. Like the McHugh lawsuit,
the ultimate question in the UPMC lawsuit is whether
Fleet owes UPMC more money for Sharon McHugh's medical
case was assigned to the docket of the Honorable Dan Polster.
On February 20, 2019, Judge Polster entered an order
consenting to the transfer of the UPMC lawsuit to
the docket of the undersigned as a related case, in
accordance with LR 3.1(b)(3). (Doc. No. 12.) On February 12,
2019, UPMC filed its motion to consolidate the UPMC
lawsuit with the McHugh lawsuit. On May 17, 2019,
with leave of Court, Fleet filed its own motion in support of
consolidation. This matter is now ripe for the Court's
STANDARD OF REVIEW
42(a)(2) provides that the Court may consolidate actions
involving “a common question of law or fact[.]”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a)(2); see Cantrell v. GAF Corp.,
999 F.2d 1007, 1010-11 (6th Cir. 1993). The objective of
consolidation is to administer the Court's business
economically and expeditiously while ensuring justice for the
parties. Advey v. Celotex Corp., 962 F.2d 1177, 1180
(6th Cir. 1992). Consolidation of separate actions does not
merge the independent actions into one suit. Id. The
party seeking consolidation bears the burden of demonstrating
the commonality of law, facts, or both in cases sought to be
combined. Young v. Hamric, No. 07-12368, 2008 WL
2338606, at *4 (E.D. Mich. June 4, 2008). Once the threshold
requirement of establishing a common question of law or facts
is met, the decision to consolidate rests in the sound
discretion of the district court. Stemler v. Burke,
344 F.2d 393, 396 (6th Cir. 1965). The Court weighs the
interests of judicial economy against the potential for new
delays, expense, confusion, or prejudice. Banacki v.
OneWest Bank, FSB, 276 F.R.D. 567, 571 (E.D. Mich.
exercising its broad discretion, the trial court must
consider whether the risks of prejudice and confusion are
overborne by the risk of inconsistent adjudications of common
factual and legal issues, the burden on the parties, the
burden on witnesses and available judicial resources posed by
multiple lawsuits, the length of time required to conclude
multiple suits, and the relative expense to all concerned of
a single trial versus multiple trials. Cantrell, 999
F.2d at 1011.