Dietgoal Innovations LLC v. Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:13cv154

Decision Date05 June 2014
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 2:13cv154,CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:14cv143
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia

Lund Case

Consolidated Action


Before the Court is Defendant General Mills Sales' Motion to Sever and for an Expedited Trial Schedule, filed on April 24, 2014. ECF No. 88. Plaintiff DietGoal Innovations filed its Opposition on May 9, 2014, ECF No. 93, and General Mills filed a Reply on May 15, 2014, ECF No. 97. The motion is accordingly ripe for disposition,

On March 25, 2014, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas transferred this action to this district. Case No. 2:12cv761, ECF No. 388 (E.D. Tex.). On April 21, 2014, the Court entered a sua sponte order consolidating the transferred action for pretrial purposes with three other consolidated actions pending in this district pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42, See Civil Actions No. 2:13cv154 (DietGoal Innovations LLC v. WegnansFood Markets, Inc.), 2:13cv401 (DietGoal Innovations LLC v. Dunkin' Brands Group, Inc.), and 2:13cv430 (DietGoal Innovations LLC v. Domino's Pizza, Inc.). See Bess v. Cty. of Cumberland, N.C., 5:11cv388, 2011 WL 4809879, at *9 (E.D.N.C. Oct. 22, 2011) ("District courts have the inherent authority to order consolidation sua sponte.") (quotation omitted). The Court noted that consolidation was proper because the central claim in all four actions was infringement of the same patent through defendants' use of a computerized menu planning interfaces, and because the defendants raised overlapping defenses and counterclaims.

General Mills then filed the instant motion, which effectively asks the Court to reconsider and vacate the consolidation order.1 General Mills notes that before the action was transferred from the Eastern District of Texas, the parties had already finished Markman proceedings, had nearly finished discovery and were scheduled for trial on June 2, 2014. The case was therefore far more advanced than the cases in this district with which the General Mills action was consolidated, as discovery had not yet commenced in those cases and a trial date had not yet been selected. Accordingly, General Mills argues that consolidation will cause it significant hardship and prejudice.

Rule 42 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure reads, in relevant part; 'if actions he fore the court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may . . . consolidate the actions." Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(a). "[A] district court must consider the interest of judicial economy as well as the interest of the parties in a fair and impartial procedure." In re MicroStrategy Inc. Sec. Litigation, 110 F. Supp. 2d 427, 431 (E.D. Va. 2000) (citing:Johnson v. Celdotex Corp., 899 F.2d 1281, 1285 (2d Cir. 1990)). "In that regard, courts considering whether to order consolidation must determine whether 'the specific risks of prejudice and possible confusion [fromconsolidation are] overborne by the risk of inconsistent adjudications of common factual and legal issues, the burden on parties, witnesses and available judicial resources posed by multiple lawsuits, the length of time required to conclude multiple suits as against a single one, and the relative expense to all concerned."' Id. (quoting. Arnold v. Eastern Air Lines Inc., 681 F.2d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 1982)). District courts enjoy wide discretion under Rule 42(a) to consolidate actions pending in the same district. A/S J. Ludwig Mowinckles Rederi v. Tidewater Constr. Corp., 559 F.2d 928. 933 (4th Cir. 1977); see generally Charles A. Wright. Arthur R. Miller, et al., 9A Federal Practice and Procedure Civil § 2384 (3d ed.).

The Court eoneludes that balancing the interests of the parties with the interests of judicial efficiency indicates that consolidation remains appropriate, even considering the relatively advanced nature of the General Mills case as compared to the other three actions brought by DietGoal, Any argument that General Mills will be prejudiced purely by a delayed resolution of the case is contradicted by its repeated and belated attempts to transfer the case to this district. General Mills first moved for transfer on July 3, 2013, over a year after the action was first filed. See Memorandum Order, Case No. 2:12cv761 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 25, 2014) ("General Mills did not diligently pursue its effort to transfer, waiting over a year after filing and only doing so after this Court had extensively familiarized itself with this case and issued several key rulings,"). It then filed an additional supplemental brief re-urging transfer in March 2014, only three months prior to the June trial date. These actions belie General Mills' assertions that it has a strong interest in an expeditious trial date.

Howevcr, the Court docs find that having to conduct a Markman hearing and discovery for the second time will cause General Mills great prejudice and needlessly waste judicial resources. But because much, if not all. of the prior rulings in the Eastern District of Texas arelaw of the case as to the action between General Mills...

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