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Russell v. Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 2, 2015

SHELIA RUSSELL, JIM SPLAIN, SUE SPLAIN, JANELLE SPLAIN, SUSAN HOUSEL, JOHN CHAFFEE, CAROL FRENCH, CLAUD ARNOLD, LYNSEY ARNOLD, ROBERT DONOVAN, ROBIN DONOVAN, CAROLYN KNAPP, N.K., a minor, by Carolyn Knapp, guardian, M.K., a minor, by Carolyn Knapp, guardian, ANGEL UMBACH, DAVID UMBACH, and ALLISON KOLESAR, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHESAPEAKE APPALACHIA, L.L.C., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

Before the Court are Defendant Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C. and Defendant Superior Well Services renewed Motion to Sever (ECF No. 38) and Motion for a Lone Pine case management order (ECF No. 36).[1] The Court retains jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332.[2]

For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' motions are denied without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court writes primarily for the Parties; accordingly, these facts serve merely to orient the reader in brief. The Plaintiffs[3] in this case are residents and/or owners of property situate in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. The Defendants' are companies conducting natural gas exploration, extraction, transportation, and associated activities on or around the Plaintiffs' various properties.

On December 27, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The Plaintiffs alleged that the noise, traffic, lights, and other aspects of Defendants' operations constitute common law nuisance, negligence, and negligence per se. The Plaintiffs served the Complaint on the Defendants on January 3, 2014, and the Defendants removed the action to this Court on January 28, 2014 (ECF No. 1). The Defendants filed an initial Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Sever on February 4, 2014, and their Motion for a Lone Pine Case Management Order on March 12, 2014.

By Memorandum and Order of November 21, 2014, the Court granted in part and denied in part the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and denied their Motion to Sever and Motion for a Lone Pine Case Management Order without prejudice (ECF Nos. 32, 33). The Plaintiffs then filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 34), maintaining allegations of nuisance and negligence. The Defendant filed an Answer, and renewed their motions to sever and for a Lone Pine case management order. The Parties briefed those motions and they are now ripe for disposition. The Court turns first to the Motion to Sever, and then addresses the Motion for a Lone Pine Order, finding that neither motion should be granted at this juncture.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Severance Is Not Warranted at this Juncture

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 allows courts to permit multiple litigants to join in the same lawsuit if they satisfy the enumerated requirements.[4] "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." Gilyard v. Dauphin Cnty. Work Release, No. 1:10-cv-1657, 2010 WL 4623996, *1 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 5, 2010) (Conner, J.) (quoting Mosley v. Gen. Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330, 1333 (8th Cir. 1974)).

"The purpose of Rule 20(a) is to promote trial convenience and expedite the final determination of disputes, thereby preventing multiple law suits." Miller v. Hygrade Food Products Corp., 202 F.R.D. 142, 144 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (internal quotations and citation omitted). "Under 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." Mosley, 497 F.2d at 1332-33.

Rule 21 regarding misjoinder, however, allows parties to move to sever any claim or party that has been improperly joined. See FED. R. CIV. P. 21. Misjoinder is "[t]he improper union of parties in a civil case." BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY (9th ed. 2009). Where there has been a misjoinder of parties because they do not satisfy the requirements of Rule 20(a), Rule 21 authorizes the Court to "on just terms, add or drop a party" and "may also sever any claim against a party." FED. R. CIV. P. 21. The Court enjoys broad discretion in deciding Rule 21 motions, Cooper v. Fitzgerald, 266 F.R.D. 86, 88 (E.D. Pa. 2010), and may take into consideration "the convenience of the parties, avoidance of prejudice to either party, and promotion of the expeditious resolution of the litigation." Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors v. Shapiro, 190 F.R.D. 352, 355 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

"Courts generally apply a case-by-case approach when considering whether the facts of several claims constitute a single transaction or occurrence or a series of transactions or occurrences." Garcia v. Brock-Weinstein, No. 13-cv-7487, 2014 WL 2957487, *2 (E.D. Pa. Jul. 1, 2014) (internal quotation and citation omitted). "Transaction' is a word of flexible meaning, and may comprehend a series of many occurrences, depending not so much upon the immediateness of their connection as upon their logical relationship." Morris v. Kesserling, No, 1:09-cv-1739, 2010 WL 5158412, *2 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 14, 2010).

In determining whether a logical relationship exists between claims, the Third Circuit has stated that courts must engage in "a detailed analysis... to determine whether the claims involve: (1) many of the same factual issues; (2) the same factual and legal issues; or (3) offshoots of the same basic controversy between the parties." Xerox Corp. v. SCM Corp., 576 F.2d 1057, 1059 (3d Cir. 1978). Courts have found that a "systematic pattern" between tortious events will satisfy the "series of transactions or occurrences" prong. Gruening v. Sucic, 89 F.R.D. 573, 574 (E.D. Pa. 1981). Furthermore, "[c]ourts in this Circuit have found that the same series of transactions or occurrences prerequisite under Rule 20 essentially consumes the second requirement that there arise a question of law ...


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