Three sets of plaintiffs, Michael and Geralyn Putnam, Eddie and Marcia Ragsdale, and Gene and Leona Hess (plaintiffs), sued Dr. Brian Clague (defendant) for medical negligence. The plaintiffs were all represented by the same attorney, Paul Melodia. Clague moved to dismiss the lawsuits because service of process had not been made within two years of the filing the litigation. The plaintiffs argued that the delay in service was excusable because the plaintiffs’ attorney had elected to prosecute a lead case with similar facts. The decision to delay service was intended to smooth out the scheduling of discovery, trial, and other litigation events because the plaintiffs’ attorney had already served complaints on the same defendant, Clague, in four similar cases. The trial court decided that these reasons did not constitute excusable delay and dismissed the plaintiffs’ lawsuits. The plaintiffs appealed, and the California Court of Appeal consolidated the cases into a single appeal.