United States District Court, D. Maine
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge
action, Plaintiffs, three former employees of Kennebec
County, allege they were unlawfully terminated from their
employment. The matter is before the Court on Defendants'
Motion to Sever. (ECF No. 19.) Through the motion, Defendants
contend severance is appropriate because each Plaintiff has
asserted separate claims based on distinct facts.
a review of the pleadings and after consideration of the
parties' arguments, the Court denies the motion without
Cheri Caudill was employed as a clerical specialist and
corrections officer with the Kennebec County Sheriff's
Office, Corrections Division, between March 2013 and
September 2014. (First Am. Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 3.)
Plaintiff Caudill's principal claim is discrimination
based on her sexual orientation. (Id. ¶¶
183 - 190, Count VII). Defendant Quinn, a co-worker, is
alleged to have made false performance-based allegations
about Plaintiff Caudill after learning of her sexual
Diedre DiGiacomo was employed as a corrections officer with
the Kennebec County Sheriff's Office, Corrections
Division, between November 2013 and May 2015. (Id.
¶ 4.) Plaintiff DiGiacomo asserts claims of harassment
and discrimination based on gender, religion, and sexual
orientation. (Id. ¶¶ 119 - 138, Count IV.)
She maintains her complaints of harassment to two
supervisors, Defendants Campbell and Cyr, were not properly
addressed and resulted in retaliation. (Id.
¶¶ 139 - 165, Counts V and VI.)
Deborah Huard was employed as a corrections officer with the
Kennebec County Sheriff's Office, Corrections Division,
between 1989 and June 30, 2015. (Id. ¶ 5.)
Plaintiff Huard asserts claims of disability discrimination
(id. ¶¶ 52 - 72, Count I), retaliation for
engaging in protected conduct (id. ¶¶ 73 -
91, Count II) and whistleblower retaliation based on reports
of discrimination and also unsafe workplace conditions
(id. ¶¶ 92 - 99, Count III).
also generally allege that the Defendants who are responsible
for jail administration “are in fact routinely
discriminating against female Corrections Officers and
lesbian Corrections Officers, ” and that “[t]he
higher ranking officials ... responsible for the
investigation and disciplinary action against offenders
routinely endorse the hazing, pranking, and third party
offending … by failing to investigate complaints and
by blaming the victims of such harassment.”
(Id. ¶ 22.) They assert claims based on a
breach of their union contract, and a breach of contract
based on a policies and procedures manual and certain
administrative regulations. (Id. ¶¶ 229 -
265, Count XI (A), (B), (C).)
authorizes courts, “on just terms, ” to inter
alia sever any claims or parties misjoined in an action.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. Misjoinder is a term of art that draws on
the permissive standard for joinder of parties and causes set
forth in Rule 20. McCormick v. Festiva Dev. Grp.,
LLC, 269 F.R.D. 59, 60 (D. Me. 2010) (citing
Beaulieu v. Concord Group Ins. Co., 208 F.R.D. 478,
479 (D.N.H. 2002)).
permits two or more plaintiffs to join their causes together
in one action where (1) “they assert any right to
relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect
to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or
series of transactions or occurrences;” and (2)
“any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs
will arise in the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(1).
Similarly, plaintiffs are permitted to join multiple
defendants in one action where (1) “any right to relief
is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the
alternative with respect to or arising out of the same
transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or
occurrences;” and (2) “any question of law or
fact common to all defendants will arise in the
action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(b)(2).
appropriate, the joinder rules result in beneficial economies
of scale and judicial efficiency by resolving related issues
in a single lawsuit.” Beaulieu, 208 F.R.D. at
479. “Therefore, the preconditions for permissive
joinder are construed liberally in order to promote the
broadest scope of action consistent with fairness to the
parties.” Id. “However, the
determination of whether parties have been misjoined lies
within the sound discretion of the district court.”
Id. Even where the permissive standard for joinder
is met, the court may nevertheless exercise its discretion to
sever claims or parties where doing so will avoid delay,
confusion of the jury, or other prejudice to a party.
McCormick, 269 F.R.D. at 61.
addition to authorizing the severance of misjoined claims,
Rule 20 provides ample discretion to impose “protective
measures” designed “to protect a party against
embarrassment, delay, expense, or other prejudice that
arises” as a consequence of joinder. Fed.R.Civ.P.
20(b). Remediation of harm resulting from joinder does not
require a motion, as the court may sua sponte
address such matters at any time during the proceedings.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. For this reason, motions to sever are often
dismissed without prejudice to a defendant's ability to
reassert the issue, or the court's ability to revisit the
matter sua sponte, at a later date based on changed
circumstances. See, e.g., Kozak v.
Medicredit, Inc., __ F.R.D. __,, No. 8:16-CV-1304, 2016
WL 4527511, at *3 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 30, 2016); Malibu
Media, LLC v. John Does 1-16, 902 F.Supp.2d 690, 701
(E.D. Pa. 2012).
argue the plaintiffs' claims should be severed because
each Plaintiff complains of workplace discrimination based on
separate incidents that occurred at different times and did
not involve the same Kennebec County employees.
Defendants' argument is not without merit. Although
Plaintiffs have asserted several common claims based at least
in part on general allegations, the principal claims asserted
by each plaintiff do not appear to arise out of the
“same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences” as contemplated by Rule
20. Furthermore, given the different legal theories among the
plaintiffs, the claims will ...