United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
September 2, 2005.
DAVID G. LUSICK, Plaintiff,
Dr. ARMITT KULLAR, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge
Plaintiff, David G. Lusick, an inmate at the Smithfield State
Correctional Institution ("SCI-Smithfield") at Huntingdon,
Pennsylvania, commenced this action with a civil rights complaint
(Doc. 1) filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff alleges that he received improper dental treatment
while incarcerated at SCI-Smithfield. For relief, Plaintiff seeks
compensatory and punitive damages. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed
an amended complaint (Doc. 23), in which he reiterates the
original claim, and he adds a claim challenging his trial and
conviction which took place in 1994. He alleges that the
prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence in violation of his due
process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the
United States Constitution. For the reasons that follow, and
because Plaintiff's claims in his amended complaint do not
satisfy the requirements for permissive joinder pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a), he will be given the
opportunity to file a second amended complaint which must comport
with the requirements of Rule 20. Failure to do so will result in
the dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims with the exception of
the first count related to improper dental care at
SCI-Smithfield. II. Discussion
Plaintiff's amended complaint joins two unrelated claims
against two unrelated defendant groups. Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 20, titled Permissive Joinder of Parties, states, in
(a) Permissive Joinder. All persons . . . may be
joined in one action as defendants if there is
asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the
alternative, any right to relief in respect of or
arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or
series of transactions or occurrences and if any
question of law or fact common to all defendants will
arise in the action. A plaintiff or defendant need
not be interested in obtaining or defending against
all the relief demanded. Judgment may be given for
one or more of the plaintiffs according to their
respective rights to relief, and against one or more
defendants according to their respective liabilities.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a). The claims in the amended complaint do not
arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences, and do not have a question or law or
fact common to all defendants.
Rule 20 is a flexible rule that allows for fairness and
judicial economy. Rule 20(a) permits joinder in a single action
of all persons asserting, or defending against, a joint, several,
or alternative right to relief that arises out of the same
transaction or occurrence and presents a common question of law
or fact. The purpose of the rule is to promote trial convenience
and expedite the final determination of disputes, thereby
preventing multiple lawsuits. 7 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R.
Miller, & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1652
at 371-72 (1986). "Instead of developing one generalized test for
ascertaining whether or not a particular factual situation
constitutes a single transaction or occurrence for purposes of
Rule 20, the courts . . . have adopted a case by case approach."
Id. at § 1653 at 382. When the district court decides pre-trial
issues, as whether the particular facts warrant joinder, its
decision is subject to review only for abuse of discretion.
Mizwicki v. Helwig, 196 F.3d 828, 833 (7th Cir. 1999). In United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724
(1966), the Supreme Court held that "[u]nder the Rules, the
impulse is toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of
action consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of
claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged." Consistent
with this policy, the transaction and common question
requirements prescribed by Rule 20(a) are to be liberally
construed in the interest of convenience and judicial economy.
Swan v. Ray, 293 F.3d 1252, 1253 (11th Cir. 2002). The
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has noted that the policy of
liberal application of Rule 20 is not a license to join any and
all claims and defendants in one lawsuit:
Permissive joinder is not, however, applicable in all
cases. 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.
Mosley v. General Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330
, 1333 (8th Cir.
Plaintiff's disparate claims share neither common legal issues
nor common facts, and accordingly they are inappropriate for
joinder under Rule 20. A careful reading of Plaintiff's
allegations shows that the only common thread they all share is
that they allegedly occurred within the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania; the Defendants and the alleged actions are entirely
unrelated, and they do not satisfy the elements of joinder.
There also exists another important reason for requiring
compliance with Rule 20. The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995
("PLRA"), Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (April 26, 1996),
substantially changed the judicial treatment of civil rights
actions by state and federal prisoners. One major change was that
pursuant to the PLRA, the full filing fee ultimately must be
paid, at least in a non-habeas action. In being permitted to
combine in one complaint two separate, independent claims, Plaintiff is able
to circumvent the filing fee requirements of the PLRA.
Based on the foregoing, and in the interests of justice to this
pro se litigant, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21
(1972), Plaintiff will be granted twenty (20) days within which
to submit an amended complaint which satisfies Rule 20. Plaintiff
is advised that the "amended complaint must be complete in all
respects. It must be a new pleading which stands by itself as an
adequate complaint, without reference to the complaint already
filed." Young v. Keohane, 809 F. Supp. 1185, 1198 (M.D. Pa.
1992). Additionally, it must establish the existence of actions
by Defendants which have resulted in constitutional deprivations,
Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000), and the
claims should raise common questions of law or fact, and the
claims shall be based upon a common set of operative facts.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a). Failure to file an appropriate amended
complaint will result in the dismissal of all but the first claim
contained in the first amended complaint (alleging inadequate
medical care) and the Court will proceed thereon. An appropriate
Order follows. ORDER
AND NOW, THEREFORE, THIS 2nd DAY OF SEPTEMBER, 2005, in
accordance with the foregoing Memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED
1. Within twenty (20) days from the date of this
Order, Plaintiff may file a second amended complaint
in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
2. Failure to submit a second amended complaint in
accordance with the attached Memorandum will result
in the dismissal of all but the first count contained
in Plaintiff's first amended complaint, related to
inadequate dental care at SCI-Smithfield.
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