Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 20, joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged. Where joinder is inappropriate, claims may be severed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 21. The trial judge has broad discretion to determine when joinder or severance are appropriate. Rule 20(a) imposes two requirements for proper joinder: (1) the right to relief must be asserted by each plaintiff or defendant and must arise out of the same transaction, occurrence or series of transactions; and (2) some question of law or fact common to all the parties must arise in the action.
Plaintiffs, cigarette smokers and their spouses, filed suit against defendants, tobacco manufacturers. After plaintiffs' motion for class certification was denied, defendants moved to sever the claims of the three sets of plaintiffs previously joined under Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, into three separate actions pursuant to Rule 21. The district court granted the motion opining that even under the less stringent joinder requirements of Rule 20, plaintiffs' claims were not sufficiently similar to warrant joining them in a single proceeding.
Were plaintiffs' claims sufficiently similar to warrant joining them in a single proceeding?
The court observed the Rule 20 demands more than the bare allegation that plaintiffs were all the victims of the same conduct by one or more defendants. Since plaintiffs began smoking at different ages, smoked different brands of cigarettes, and quit for different reasons and under different circumstances, the requisite minimal factual similarity was lacking. Accordingly, the severance motion was granted.