United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CYNTHIA REED EDDY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
pending is Defendants' Motion to Drop Parties and/or
Sever for Misjoinder Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 21 with brief
in support (ECF Nos. 43 and 44), to which Plaintiff has
responded in opposition (ECF Nos. 46 and 47). For the reasons
that follow, the motion will be denied.
Derrick Gibson, is a prisoner previously incarcerated at
SCI-Greene and SCI-Fayette, and currently incarcerated at
SCI-Forest. On or about May 9, 2016, he filed this pro
se § 1983 action. Named as defendants are seven
current and/or former employees of the Department of
Corrections who worked at either SCI-Greene or SCI-Fayette.
Following the filing of a motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed
an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 30). In response to the Amended
Complaint, Defendants filed a Motion for More Definite
Statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e).
(ECF No. 35). The Court granted the motion and the case was
placed in administrative closure pending the filing by
Plaintiff of a proper amended second amended complaint. (ECF
about June 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended
Complaint against the same seven current and/or former
employees of the Department of Corrections. (ECF No. 39). The
Second Amended Complaint divides the named defendants into
those who violated his constitutional rights during his
incarceration at SCI-Greene and those alleged to have done so
during his incarceration at SCI-Fayette. The Greene
defendants are: Mary Flemming, Robert Flemming, and Thomas
Armstrong. The Fayette defendants are: Shaun Irey, Carl
Walker, Darryl Beveridge, and Robert Hawkinberry.
filed the instant motion arguing that because Plaintiff's
claims arise from different facts and alleged damages, the
claims are misjoined in this single action and parties to
this action must be dropped or, in the alternative, claims
must be severed into separate actions to avoid prejudice to
Defendants and confusion to the jury. Plaintiff responds that
all of the Defendants' alleged actions arose out of the
same transaction and/or occurrence.
to its essence, the Second Amended Complaint alleges a series
of incidents of abuse and retaliation at the hands of prison
employees at SCI-Greene, which abuse and retaliation
continued at SCI-Fayette, allegedly in retaliation for an
incident which occurred on September 4, 2014, involving Nurse
Mary Flemming and Plaintiff. For example, Plaintiff alleges
inter alia, instances of falsified misconduct
reports, retaliation, denial of medical treatment, use of
excessive force, including malicious and sadistic use of
physical force, use of restraint chair and belts, shackles
and hard cells, and tampering of witnesses.
has broad discretion in deciding whether to sever a party
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21. “For
courts applying Rule 20 and related 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.' ”
Hagan v. Rogers, 570 F.3d 146, 153 (3d Cir. 2009)
(quoting United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715,
724 (1966)). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2)
(“Rule 20”) sets forth two necessary conditions
that must be satisfied for a plaintiff to permissively join
multiple defendants in one action. First, the claims asserted
against the defendants must “aris[e] out of the same
transaction, occurrence or series of transactions or
occurrences, ” and second, there must be a
“question of law or fact common to all
defendants.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2)(A)-(B). Where a
plaintiff has failed to satisfy the conditions of permissive
joinder under Rule 20(a), a court may “grant severance
or dismissal to the improper party if it will not prejudice
any substantial right” to remedy joinder pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 (“Rule 21”).
Sabolsky v. Budzanoski, 457 F.2d 1245, 1249 (3d Cir.
1972). Rule 21 provides: “[o]n motion or on its own,
the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a
party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 21.
even where joinder is permissible under Rule 20, a court may
exercise its discretion to sever or drop defendants if it
concludes that doing so would further the interests of
judicial economy without prejudice to any party. Fed.R.Civ.P.
20(b), 21, and 42(b).
first element of Rule 20(a), the ‘same transaction'
or transactional relatedness prong, refers to the similarity
in the factual background of the relevant claims. 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. “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.' ” Russell v. Chesapeake Appalachia,
L.L.C., 305 F.R.D. 78, 81 (M.D. Pa. 2015) (alteration in
original) (quoting Xerox Corp. v. SCM Corp., 576
F.2d 1057, 1059 (3d Cir. 1978)).
there are seven (7) defendants, three (3) of whom are either
current or former DOC employees who worked at SCI-Greene and
four (4) of whom are either current or former DOC employees
who worked at SCI-Fayette. Defendants describe
Plaintiff's claims as a “laundry list” of
claims with no “rhyme or reason.” Br. at 7. The
Court disagrees with this description. Rather, it appears to
the Court that Plaintiff's claims can be described as
“offshoots” arising from his encounter with Nurse
Flemming on September 4, 2014, and the termination of Nurse
Flemming's employment two days later on September 6,
Court concludes that at this early stage of the litigation, a
logical relationship exists between the claims which arose
from events at SCI-Greene and those that occurred at
SCI-Fayette. Consequently, ...