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.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42 addresses the consolidation of actions and separate trials, offering courts the flexibility to manage multiple actions that involve common questions of law or fact, or to separate issues within a single action for more efficient and just resolution. Here’s a concise summary and explanation:


  1. Consolidation:
  • Rule 42(a) allows a court to order a consolidation of actions if they involve common questions of law or fact. This can streamline proceedings, reduce litigation costs, and avoid conflicting judgments by handling all related matters in a single trial.
  1. Separate Trials:
  • Rule 42(b) gives courts the discretion to order separate trials for distinct issues, claims, crossclaims, counterclaims, or third-party claims within a single action if separation is necessary to avoid prejudice, to expedite and economize the trial process, or for convenience.


Consolidation under Rule 42(a) is particularly useful when multiple actions between the same parties or involving similar issues are pending in the same court. Consolidation can lead to more efficient use of judicial resources, reduce the risk of inconsistent rulings, and potentially shorten the time to resolution for all involved. It allows for the combination of hearings, trials, and even discovery processes, depending on how closely related the cases are.

Separate Trials under Rule 42(b) recognize that, in some cases, lumping all issues together might confuse the jury, unduly complicate the trial process, or create unfairness to one of the parties. For instance, a claim requiring a jury and a related claim requiring a bench trial might be separated to ensure that each is tried under its appropriate procedure. Similarly, if one issue in a case is particularly complex or would unduly delay the resolution of other simpler issues, the court might order that the complex issue be tried separately.

In practice, the decision to consolidate actions or separate trials lies within the broad discretion of the trial judge, who will consider the specifics of the case, including the potential benefits of consolidation versus the risk of confusion or unfairness that might arise from combining too many issues or actions. The overarching goal is to administer justice efficiently, economically, and fairly, balancing the needs of the court, the parties, and the effective administration of justice.


(As amended Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

Subdivision (a) is based upon U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §734 (Orders to save costs; consolidation of causes of like nature) but insofar as the statute differs from this rule, it is modified.

For comparable statutes dealing with consolidation see Ark.Dig.Stat. (Crawford & Moses, 1921) §1081; Calif.Code Civ.Proc. (Deering, 1937) §1048; N.M.Stat.Ann. (Courtright, 1929) §105–828; N.Y.C.P.A. (1937) §§96, 96a, and 97; American Judicature Society, Bulletin XIV (1919) Art.26.

For severance or separate trials see Calif.Code Civ.Proc. (Deering, 1937) §1048; N.Y.C.P.A. (1937) §96; American Judicature Society, Bulletin XIV (1919) Art. 3, §2 and Art. 10, §10. See also the third sentence of Equity Rule 29 (Defenses—How Presented) providing for discretionary separate hearing and disposition before trial of pleas in bar or abatement, and see also Rule 12(d) of these rules for preliminary hearings of defenses and objections.

For the entry of separate judgments, see Rule 54(b) (Judgment at Various Stages).

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1966 Amendment

In certain suits in admiralty separation for trial of the issues of liability and damages (or of the extent of liability other than damages, such as salvage and general average) has been conducive to expedition and economy, especially because of the statutory right to interlocutory appeal in admiralty cases (which is of course preserved by these Rules). While separation of issues for trial is not to be routinely ordered, it is important that it be encouraged where experience has demonstrated its worth. Cf. Weinstein, Routine Bifurcation of Negligence Trials, 14 Vand.L.Rev. 831 (1961).

In cases (including some cases within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction) in which the parties have a constitutional or statutory right of trial by jury, separation of issues may give rise to problems. See e.g., United Air Lines, Inc. v. Wiener, 286 F.2d 302 (9th Cir. 1961). Accordingly, the proposed change in Rule 42 reiterates the mandate of Rule 38 respecting preservation of the right to jury trial.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 42 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

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