Brief Fact Summary. Insolia, May, and Lovejoy (Plaintiffs), three former smokers and their spouses, brought a civil action against the Philip Morris, Inc., and two tobacco industry trade organizations (Defendants) for fraud and civil conspiracy to commit fraud. Defendant filed a Motion to Sever the claims of the three Plaintiffs into three separate actions.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Claims not logically related to one another must be divided into separate actions.
Thus, Rule 20(a) imposes two specific requirements for the permissive joinder of defendants: (1) a right to relief must be asserted by the plaintiff against each defendant relating to or arising out of the same transaction or series of transactions; and (2) some common question of law or fact must be present with respect to all parties in the action (i.e. a common thread).View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether Plaintiffs’ claims arose out of the same transaction or occurrence to be considered a single action?
Held. No. Defendants’ Motion to Sever the claims of the three Plaintiffs into three separate actions is granted. Plaintiffs’ claims do not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence. Therefore, they are not similar enough to be joined as a single action. The claims were not logically related to one another for allegations of industry wide conspiracy. According to the facts, Plaintiffs began smoking at different ages, they smoked different brands of cigarettes, and they quit for different reasons. Further, a great burden would be felt on the part of the Defendant, and the risk of jury confusion would be outweighed by the benefits likely to be experienced by the parties.
Discussion. Under Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the remedy for misjoinder of parties is not to dismiss the action, but to add or drop parties, or to sever and proceed with the claims separately.