United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois
June 16, 2003
The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel, Magistrate Judge
Pursuant to Local Rule 40.4, the United States moves to consolidate the following five cases that are alleged to be related to the present case: Collins v. United States, No. 03 C 2958; Barkhoff v. United States, No. 03 C 2966; Hock v. United States, No. 03 C 2009; Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Inc., et al. v. United States, No. 03 C 3162; and Aviation Training Enterprises of Illinois, Inc., et al. v. United States, No. 03 C 3166 (hereinafter referred to as the "Waukegan cases"). To be subject to reassignment based upon relatedness, Local Rule 40.4 requires that the cases in question either (1) involve the same property; (2) involve the same issues of fact or law; (3) grow out of the same transaction or occurrence; or (4) involve the same class in a class action proceeding.
The Waukegan cases arise out of the mid-air collision of two small airplanes near Waukegan Regional Airport on February 8, 2000. The present case arises from a mid-air collision near Meigs Field in 1997. According to the United States, the cases are factually the same because they both involve mid-air collisions and because the air traffic towers at both airports were operated by the same private company. Although similar, the Meigs and Waukegan cases occurred near different airports, involve different control towers and different controllers on duty, and occurred approximately three years apart. The factual background and factors involved in the two cases, such as weather conditions and presence of other aircraft, are distinct. The common issue might control all outcomes, but, as the United States acknowledges, the facts of each incident are different enough so that it is not clear that a "single proceeding" would dispose of both cases.
As for the United States' argument that the cases involve the same legal issues and would benefit from the acquired expertise of a single judge, my legal determinations in the Meigs case are relatively straightforward conclusions that can be aptly applied to the Waukegan cases or any other similar case by any judge assigned to adjudicate the matters. Therefore, there is little need for consolidation here. In addition, the discourse between the FAA and FAA's air traffic contractors after the Meigs collision, and the knowledge that both FAA and its contract towers, specifically the personnel at the Waukegan tower, had as a result of the Meigs and other mid-air collisions between 1997 and 2000 may be significant legal factors. Finally, the Meigs case and Waukegan cases are at entirely different stages of litigation, and consolidating them at this point may require additional judicial time and effort (thus causing delay) as to opposed to saving time and effort. Accordingly, I exercise my discretion to decline consolidating the Waukegan cases with the Meigs case.
In addition to the motion to reassign, Collins, Barkhoff, and Hock have jointly moved to strike the motion to reassign on the basis that it has been invalidly made. However, as explained in open court at the June 12, 2003 status hearing, the motion to reassign is validly before me as I am the assigned judge for the lower numbered Meigs cases.
Finally, Collins, Barkhoff, and Hock also jointly request the assignment of all the Waukegan cases to Judge Darrah, the assigned judge in Collins v. United States, No. 03 C 2958. Unlike the present case, these five cases are substantially related as they involve the same property, grow out of the same occurrence, and involve the same issues of fact and law, but this motion must be made before Judge Darrah.
For the reasons above, the United States' Motion to Reassign Cases, L.R. 40.4 is DENIED and Collins, Barkhoff, and Hock's Joint Motion to Strike Defendant's Invalid Motion to Reassign Cases and Plaintiffs' Joint Request for Related Assignment is DENIED.
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