Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42

Rule 42. Consolidation; Separate Trials

(a) CONSOLIDATION. If 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.

(b) SEPARATE TRIALS. For convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or more separate issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or third-party claims. When ordering a separate trial, the court must preserve any federal right to a jury trial.

Essential Points

  • Rule 42(a) provides that a court can consolidate separate lawsuits if the cases involve common questions of law and fact.  You previously saw this test — common questions of law and fact – – applied to Rule 20(a) permissive party joinder; Rule 23(a)(2) class actions; and Rule 24(b) permissive interventions.
  • But 42(b) allows court to order separate trials on any issue or claim to avoid prejudice or to expedite/economize.  Sometimes this is called bifurcation of trials.  For example, one party might seek to bifurcate a trial so that liability can be decided in one trial and then damages, if any, will be calculated in a second trial.