Plaintiffs and nine others filed a complaint against Defendants jointly and as class representatives. The district court ordered that the complaint be severed into separate causes of action. As for the class action, the court left it to Plaintiffs to allege a separate cause of action on behalf of any class that they represented.
Permissive joinder under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(b) requires that (1) a right to relief arising out of the same transaction(s) or occurrence(s) is asserted by or against each plaintiff or defendant; and (2) there is a common question of law or fact common to all parties.
Mosley and nine others joined in bringing an employment discrimination action individually and as class representatives. The complaint alleged that Defendants discriminated against Plaintiffs based on their race. The district court ordered that the complaint be severed into separate causes of action with regard to the first ten counts of the complaint. The class action complaint was not dismissed, but the court left it to Plaintiffs to allege a separate cause of action on behalf of any class that Plaintiff or Plaintiffs represented.
Did the district court abuse its discretion in severing the joined actions?
Yes, the district court abused its discretion in severing the joined actions.
A case by case approach is used to determine whether, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20, a factual situation constitutes a single transaction or occurrence. In this case, the claims were reasonably related and arose out of the same transactions or occurrences. Also, the alleged discriminatory conduct of Defendants was basic to each Plaintiff’s claims, even if they suffered different effects. Difficulty in determining the damages, if any, did not warrant severance.