United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
September 27, 2004.
DARRYL W. DONAHUE; LAWRENCE D. WILLIAMS; JENNIFER THOMAS; NOELLE OLIVIER; KEITH MOODY; DELORES MILLER; ROBERT CURTINGTON; RAMONA CAMPRINDO; EVELYN D. NORRIS; and TAMARA R. TURNER, Plaintiffs,
ELGIN RIVERBOAT RESORT, d/b/a GRAND VICTORIA RIVERBOAT; NEVADA LANDING PARTNERSHIP; and RBG L.P., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RONALD GUZMAN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Defendants Elgin Riverboat Resort d/b/a
Grand Victoria Riverboat, Nevada Landing Partnership, and RBG,
L.P.'s (collectively "Elgin") Motion for a Reassignment Of
Related Cases pursuant to Local Rule 40.4. For the reasons that
follow, the motion is denied.
On November 6, 1998, Plaintiffs Lisa Ellis, Marcia English,
Yvonne Mason, and Derrick Denson filed a putative class action
suit, Ellis v. Elgin Riverboat Resort d/b/a Grand Victoria
Casino, No. 98 C 7093, alleging that Elgin engaged in a pattern
and practice of discriminatory hiring based on race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. On March 27, 2000, Judge
Gottschall conditionally certified the class pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2). On August 21, 2003, Magistrate
Judge Ashman*fn1 decertified the class because the Ellis
plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that a common question of law or
fact existed, that their claims were typical of those of the
class, or that they could adequately represent the class. See
Ellis v. Elgin Riverboat Resort, 217 F.R.D. 415, 427-29 (N.D.
Ill. 2003). After decertification, five former class members
filed individual lawsuits, the lowest-numbered of which is the
present case.*fn2 Elgin now seeks a finding that all four
individual suits are related and asks that they be reassigned to
To have a case reassigned based on relatedness, the movant must
satisfy both Local Rule 40.4(a) and (b). Lawrence E. Jaffe
Pension Plan v. Household Int'l, Inc., No. 02 C 5893, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7466, at *3 (N.D. Ill. May 5, 2003). This Court has
the sound discretion whether to reassign a case under Local Rule
40.4. Clark v. Ins. Car Rentals Inc., 42 F.Supp. 2d 846, 847
(N.D. Ill. 1999). Local Rule 40.4(a) provides that:
Two or more civil cases may be related if one or more
of the following conditions are met: (1) the cases
involve the same property; (2) the cases involve some
of the same issues of fact or law; (3) the cases grow
out of the same transaction or occurrence; or (4) in
class action suits, one or more of the classes
involved in the cases is or are of the same.
N.D. Ill. L.R. 40.4(a).
Elgin argues the lawsuits satisfy Local Rule 40.4(a)(2) because
all five cases are brought against the same defendant, involve a
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on
allegations that the plaintiffs were not hired because of their
race, and "[t]herefore, on a general level," involve the same
legal issues. (Defs.' Mot. Reassignment Related Cases Ex. A, Mot.
at 4).*fn4 Elgin's motion, however, fails to identify any
particular issues of fact or law that are common to all
plaintiffs. See Local Rule 40.4(c)(1) (requiring that a motion
for reassignment "shall . . . set forth the points of commonality
of the cases in sufficient detail to indicate that the cases are
related within the meaning of section (a)"). As Elgin
successfully argued before Judge Ashman in its motion to
decertify, the hiring process was decentralized and subjective,
and each of the hiring decisions rested on a unique set of facts,
including the applicants' experience and the casino's hiring
needs. See Ellis, 217 F.R.D. at 426-27; see also Davis v. Quebecor World, No. 01
C 8014, 2002 WL 27660, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 10, 2002) (refusing
to find cases related where, among other things, the charges of
discrimination do not involve the same decisionmakers).
Elgin maintains that the standards for class certification and
a finding of relatedness are not the same, but the
decertification order is certainly instructive as to the lack of
commonality among the various plaintiffs' claims. Moreover, Elgin
has failed to specify any common issues of fact and law other
than those resolved in the decertification order which would
warrant a finding of relatedness. Cf. Murry v. Am.'s Mortgage
Banc, Inc., No. 03 C 5811, 2004 WL 407010, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar.
1, 2004) (finding relatedness where both cases will necessarily
involve a determination of the legality of the defendant's
specific actions in procuring mortgage loans); Fairbanks Capital
Corp. v. Jenkins, No. 02 C 3930, 2002 WL 31655277, at *2 (N.D.
Ill. Nov. 25, 2002) (holding that cases are related where they
each involve the legality of a defendant's particular lending
practice); Smith v. N.E. Ill. Univ., No. 98 C 3555, 2002 WL
377725, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 28, 2002) (finding relatedness
where cases have common issues of a hostile work environment).
The fact that the cases are brought against the same defendant
and generally involve the same types of allegations are not
sufficient to show the cases are related pursuant to Local Rule
40.4(a). Therefore, Elgin's motion must be denied on this basis
Furthermore, even if Elgin had shown the cases are related, the
motion does not demonstrate that reassignment is proper under
Local Rule 40.4(b), which provides:
[A] case may be reassigned to the calendar of another
judge if it is found to be related to an
earlier-numbered case assigned to that judge and each
of the following criteria is met: (1) both cases are
pending in this Court; (2) the handling of both cases
by the same judge is likely to result in a
substantial saving of judicial time and effort; (3) the earlier case has not progressed to the point
where designating a later filed case as related would
be likely to delay the proceedings in the earlier
case substantially; and (4) the cases are susceptible
of disposition in a single proceeding.
N.D.Ill. L.R. 40.4(b); see N.D. Ill. L.R. 40.4(c)(2) (requiring
a motion for reassignment to "indicate the extent to which the
conditions required by section (b) will be met if the cases are
found to be related").
The first and third conditions are satisfied here because all
five cases are pending in the Northern District of Illinois and
the present case has not progressed to the point that it would
substantially delay the litigation if the other cases were
reassigned as related. However, Elgin has failed to show that it
has met the second and fourth conditions.
As to the fourth requirement, whether the cases are susceptible
of disposition in a single proceeding, Elgin cites Fairbanks
Capital, 2002 WL 31655277, for the proposition that Local Rule
40.4(b)(4) "merely means that a ruling in one case will likely be
applicable or even dispositive in the other case." (Defs.' Mot.
Reassignment Related Cases Ex. A, Mot. at 6.) Unlike the present
case, however, resolution of the common issue in Fairbanks
Capital would be "outcome-determinative" of the same issue in
the other cases, and thus the cases were susceptible of
determination in a single proceeding. See Fairbanks Capital,
2002 WL 31655277, at *3. In this case, each individual case
relies on a different set of facts, and a finding in one case
would not be dispositive of any issues in the other cases.
Therefore, Elgin has failed to satisfy Local Rule 40.4(b)(4).
For the same reasons, Elgin has not shown that reassignment
would result in a "substantial saving of judicial time and
effort," the second necessary condition. See N.D. Ill. L.R.
40.4(b)(2). As explained in detail in the order decertifying the
Ellis class, each plaintiff's claim requires individualized proof and is subject to unique defenses. See
Ellis, 217 F.R.D. at 429. Thus, each plaintiff's claims will
have to be separately litigated, whether in one proceeding or in
four separate proceedings. Local Rule 40.4(b)(2) requires a
"substantial saving" of judicial resources, and Elgin has failed
to demonstrate reassignment would result in the saving of even a
single trial day. Accordingly, the cases must not be reassigned
pursuant to Local Rule 40.4(b).
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Elgin Riverboat Resort
d/b/a Grand Victoria Riverboat, Nevada Landing Partnership and
RBG, L.P.'s Motion for a Reassignment of Related Cases pursuant
to Local Rule 40.4 [doc. no. 5-1] is denied.