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Bedwell v. Braztech International L.C.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

February 11, 2018

SUZANNE M. BEDWELL, individually and as mother and next friend of R.Z.B., a minor and ERNEST D. BEDWELL, individually and as father and next friend of R.Z.B., a minor, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRAZTECH INTERNATIONAL, L.C., Defendant.

          ORDER ON BRAZTECH'S MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE

          EDWIN G. TORRES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Braztech International L.C.'s ("Defendant" or "Braztech") motion to consolidate this action with William Burrow and Oma Louise Burrow v. Forjas Taurus and Braztech, case no. l:16-cv-21606-EGT (the "Burrow case"). On November 6, 2017, Suzanne M. Bedwell ("Ms. Bedwell") and Ernest D. Bedwell ("Mr. Bedwell") (the "Bedwell Plaintiffs") filed their response [D.E. 73] to which Braztech replied on November 13, 2017. [D.E. 76]. Therefore, Braztech's motion is now ripe for disposition. After careful consideration of the motion, response, reply, the benefit of oral argument, the record presented, the relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed below, Braztech's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. [1]

         J. BACKGROUND

         A. The Bedwell Case

         The Bedwell Plaintiffs filed this action (the "Bedwell case") on September 16, 2016 (four months after the Burrow case) in the United States District Court for the District of Alaska as a proposed class action alleging negligent design or manufacture of Rossi-brand .357 Magnum revolvers. [D.E. I].[2] On January 20, 2015, Ms. Bedwell purchased a Magnum revolver at an outdoor equipment retailer in Wasilla, Alaska. On February 21, 2015, Ms. Bedwell, along with her husband and son, drove to an ammunition store to purchase supplies before driving to Palmer, Alaska to engage in target practice. In the process of exiting the motor vehicle in the parking lot, the revolver inadvertently fell out of its holster, landed on its hammer, and unintentionally discharged a round of ammunition that struck Ms. Bedwell's son in his left leg. Ms. Bedwell suggests that the accidental discharge of the firearm was directly and proximately caused by the firearm's defective condition, including manufacturing and/or design defects. As a result of the injury to Ms. Bedwell's son, Alaska state troopers were called to the scene. After hearing Ms. Bedwell's explanation for the cause of the accident, the officers took the firearm into their possession.

         On April 14, 2015, Alaska state troopers tested Ms. Bedwell's firearm for a potential misfiring defect by tapping the revolver on the hammer with a small mallet. The test allegedly resulted in an unintentional misfiring of the weapon. Plaintiff then purchased three additional Rossi .357 revolvers and a local gunsmith tested them for defects. Out of the three, one discharged in the same way as Ms. Bedwell's revolver when struck on the hammer with a mallet. As such, Ms. Bedwell filed this class action seeking to force Braztech to recall, repair, and/or repurchase the defective .357 revolvers sold to Ms. Bedwell and the class. Specifically, the Bedwell Plaintiffs seek to represent a proposed class that includes "[a]ll individuals in the United States and its territories who own a Rossi .357 Magnum revolver." [D.E. 75-1]. The Magnum revolvers include models R46202, R46102, R97206, and R97104.

         In sum, the Bedwell Plaintiffs allege that Braztech violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, committed two counts of negligence (failure to warn and failure to test), and breached several warranties. Judge Sedgwick, in the District of Alaska, transferred this case to the Southern District of Florida pursuant to the first-filed rule because there was substantial overlap between Bedwell and Burrow.

         B. The Burrow Case

         William Burrow and Oma Louise Burrow (the "Burrow Plaintiffs") filed their complaint on May 5, 2016 with allegations that certain handguns that Forjas Taurus manufactured - and that Braztech distributed in the United States - are defective and unreasonably dangerous. Specifically, the Burrow Plaintiffs claim that several handguns share safety features with identical designs and that they are prone to drop-fires. The Burrow Plaintiffs own a Rossi .38 Special which allegedly discharges when dropped. As such, the Burrow Plaintiffs seek to represent a proposed class that includes "[a]ll individuals in the United States who own a Revolver." [D.E. 75-1]. The revolvers are defined as models R35102, R35202, R85104, R97206, R97104, R46202, and R46102.

         The Court issued its Scheduling Order in the Burrow case on June 28, 2016. That Order initially established a trial date of March 5, 2018 with a discovery deadline of October 4, 2017 and a deadline for motions for October 9, 2017. These deadlines were subsequently extended and a new trial date is set for July 16, 2018. The discovery deadline is now February 2, 2018 and the deadline to file motions is April 13, 2018.[3] To date, the Burrow Plaintiffs have issued discovery requests to both Braztech and Forjas Taurus, and both defendants have produced documents in response.[4] On November 8, 2017, the Burrow Plaintiffs filed a motion to intervene to Braztech's motion to consolidate. [D.E. 75-1].

         II. ANALYSIS

         Braztech's motion seeks to consolidate Bedwell with Burrow pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a), which provides that "[i]f actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may: (1) join for hearing or trial any or all matters at issue in the actions; (2) consolidate the actions; or (3) issue any other orders to avoid unnecessary cost or delay." Rule 42(a) codifies a trial court's managerial power '"to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.'" In re Air Crash Disaster at Florida Everglades, 549 F.2d 1006, 1012 (5th Cir. 1977) (quoting Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936)). The Eleventh Circuit has "encouraged trial judges to 'make good use of Rule 42(a) ... in order to expedite the trial and eliminate unnecessary repetition and confusion."' Hendrix v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 776 F.2d 1492, 1495 (11th Cir. 1985) (quoting Dupont v. Southern Pacific Co., 366 F.2d 193, 195 (5th Cir. 1966)). The decision on whether to consolidate under Rule 42(a) is purely discretionary, yet the district court must determine the following:

[W]hether the specific risks of prejudice and possible confusion [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 of the single-trial, multiple-trial alternatives.

Hendrix, 776 F.2d at 1495 (quoting Arnold v. Eastern Air Lines, Inc., 681 F.2d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 1982)). "The court must also bear in mind the extent to which the risks of prejudice and confusion that might attend a consolidated trial can be alleviated by utilizing cautionary instructions to the jury during the trial and controlling the manner in which the plaintiffs' claims (including the defenses thereto) are submitted to the jury for deliberation." Hendrix, 776 F.2d at 1495.

         A. The Burrow Plaintiffs' Motion to Intervene

         Before ruling on Braztech's motion to consolidate, we must consider the Burrow Plaintiffs' motion to intervene.[5] Under Rule 24(a)(2), a district court must permit anyone to intervene in a case as a matter of right when the intervener:

(1) is given an unconditional right to intervene by a federal statute; or
(2) claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.

FED. R. ClV. P. 24(a)(2). "Any doubt concerning the propriety of allowing intervention should be resolved in favor of the proposed intervenors because it allows the court to resolve all related disputes in a single action." Fed. Sav. & LoanIns. Corp. v. Falls Chase ...


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