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UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside v. Fleet Owners Insurance Fund

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 18, 2019

UPMC PRESBYTERIAN SHADYSIDE PLAINTIFF,
v.
FLEET OWNERS INSURANCE FUND, et al., DEFENDANTS.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HONORABLE SARA LIOI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         McHugh Lawsuit

         On July 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.

         The 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.

         On June 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.

         UPMC Lawsuit

         On January 22, 2019, UPMC sued the Fund and two of its trustees, [1] 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 treatment.

         The 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 review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 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. 2011).

         In 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.

         III. ...


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