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What shall constitute multifariousness is a matter about which there is a great diversity of opinion. In general terms, a bill is said to be multifarious, which seeks to enforce against different individuals’ demands which are wholly disconnected.
An ordinance of the defendant City of Lake Charles has granted the St. Louis, Watkins & Gulf Railway, a franchise giving it the right and power to construct and operate a steam railroad along the lakefront between the streets. Plaintiffs Gill et al., alleged that they were citizens and taxpayers of defendant City, and owners of the property abutting upon the lake between the said streets, and also of the riparian rights pertaining to said property. Plaintiffs further alleged that the street, along which the said franchise was given, has never been dedicated or expropriated as a street, and was not a street, but at best an easement by the owners for passage on foot and in ordinary vehicles; that, by the construction and operation of said railroad, said easement would be either destroyed or rendered dangerous and impracticable. Plaintiffs averred that the said ordinance if carried into effect, would damage plaintiffs, thus, they protested against its adoption as manifest and gross oppression and abuse of power. That said ordinance was null, because it both took and damaged the plaintiff’s property without compensation, was ultra vires, and was violative of the city charter. They prayed that the ordinance be annulled. Defendants excepted that there was no allegation of privity of interest between the plaintiffs and that therefore there was a misjoinder of parties plaintiff. The lower court sustained this exception, and dismissed the action in so far as it was a joint suit, but reserved to plaintiffs the right to prosecute it in any one of their separate names. Plaintiffs have appealed.
Did the lower court err in dismissing the action in so far as it was a joint suit?
The court set aside the judgment for defendants and overruled the exception of misjoinder. The court held that a bill was said to be multifarious when it sought to enforce against different persons demands which were wholly disconnected. The object of the rule against multifariousness was to protect defendants from unnecessary expense. In this case, plaintiff taxpayers were suing in three different and distinct qualities. First, as taxpayers resisted an alleged illegal disposition of corporate property, secondly, as property owners along the easement of the passage of the proposed railroad, and third, as property owners whose property and riparian rights were to be damaged without compensation. However, the taxpayers had a common interest in resisting an obstruction of the street and the bill was not multifarious. Accordingly, the court remanded the case to the trial court.