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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts by Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP
Posted: January 17, 2021

Law of the Case Doctrine Applies to Actions Consolidated for Trial

On December 31, 2020, Justice Cohen of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in Darabont v. AMC Network Entertainment LLC, 2020 NY Slip Op. 34342(U), holding that the law of the case doctrine applies to actions consolidated for trial, explaining:

Defendants’ argument that the law of the case doctrine does not apply because the 2013 and 2018 cases are separate actions is not persuasive. The difference between consolidation for joint trial and formal consolidation (with a single caption) is largely a matter of form. Joint trial and consolidation are much the same in accomplishment, but differ in mechanics. Consolidation fuses them organically, while joint trial, available on the same criteria under CPLR 602, offers the same advantages without the additional paperwork that consolidation entails. Defendants cite no authority for the proposition that law of the case is inapplicable when two cases are so closely connected that they are combined for a joint trial, and the Court sees no reason to reach that conclusion here. In Manessis v Snoke, 33 AD2d 877, 878 [4th Dept 1969]), the court found that law of the case did not apply in the context of cases consolidated for joint trial because, among other things, the parties to be bound were not parties to the previous motions and orders. That is not the situation here. Justice Bransten adjudicated the same contractual language, involving a closely related dispute among the same parties. To the extent AMC argues that additional facts have been unearthed during the 2018 Action, that is an argument for diverging from law of the case based on extraordinary circumstances, not an argument for finding the doctrine to be entirely inapplicable simply because the cases have not been fully consolidated.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted).

The law of the case doctrine discussed here, along with doctrines such as collateral estoppel, res judicata and the entire controversy doctrine, limits a party’s ability to litigate an issue more than once. Contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at jlundin@schlamstone.com if you or a client have questions regarding whether a claim is barred by an earlier decision or action.

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