Law School Case Brief
Mosley v. Gen. Motors Corp. - 497 F.2d 1330 (8th Cir. 1974)
Fed. R. Civ. P. 20 imposes two specific requisites to the joinder of parties: (1) a right to relief must be asserted by, or against, each plaintiff or defendant relating to or arising out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (2) some question of law or fact common to all the parties must arise in the action. In ascertaining whether a particular factual situation constitutes a single transaction or occurrence for purposes of Rule 20, a case by case approach is generally pursued.
Plaintiffs Nathaniel Mosley and nine other individuals joined in bringing a suit action, individually and as class representatives, alleging discriminatory employment practices against defendants General Motors Corp. (” General Motors”) and Local 25, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agriculture Implement Workers of America by reason of their color and race. Each of the 10 named plaintiffs had, prior to the filing of the complaint, filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) asserting the facts underlying these claims. Pursuant thereto, the EEOC made a reasonable cause finding that General Motors, Fisher Body Division and Chevrolet Division, and the Union had engaged in unlawful employment practices in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Accordingly, the charging parties were notified by EEOC of their right to institute a civil action in the appropriate federal district court, pursuant to § 706(e) of Title VII. The district court severed the first 10 counts into 10 separate causes of action and withheld determination of the propriety of the purported class until further discovery. The plaintiffs appealed.
Was the severance of the joined actions an abuse of discretion on the part of the district court?
The United States Court of Appeals held that the district court abused its discretion in severing the joined actions. In deciding if permissive joined was appropriate, the Court explained the rule imposes two specific requisites to the joinder of parties: (1) a right to relief must be asserted by, or against, each plaintiff or defendant relating to or arising out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (2) some question of law or fact common to all the parties must arise in the action. The right to relief in this case depended on the ability to demonstrate that each of the plaintiffs was wronged by racially discriminatory policies on the part of the defendants General Motors and the Union. The Court reversed that part of the judgment of the district court disallowing joinder and remanded with directions to permit Mosley et al. to proceed jointly under Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a). The Court affirmed that portion of the district court's judgment withholding determination of the propriety of the purported class until further discovery. The Court found that General Motor’s company-wide policy purportedly designed to discriminate similarly arose out of the same series of transactions or occurrences. The Court also found that the discriminatory character of General Motor’s conduct was basic to each plaintiff's recovery.
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