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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts by Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP
Posted: April 20, 2020

Law of the Case Doctrine Applies to Separate Cases That Have Been Consolidated for Joint Trial

On April 10, 2020, Justice Cohen of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in Darabont v. AMC Network Entertainment LLC, 2020 NY Slip Op. 30926(U), holding that the law of the case doctrine applies to cases that have been consolidated for joint 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 A.D.2d 877 (4th Dep’t 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 citations omitted).

Consolidation is a useful tool to avoid duplication of effort when there are similar lawsuits. Similarly, the law of the case doctrine allows courts to avoid revisiting earlier legal holdings in an action. Contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at jlundin@schlamstone.com if you or a client have a question regarding the law of the case doctrine or whether two or more lawsuits can be consolidated.

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