United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
BRENDA J. COOPER, et al. PLAINTIFFS
MERITOR, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS
M. BROWN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the Court on the defendants' motion to
sever. Doc. #414.
Relevant Procedural History
March 16, 2016, Brenda Cooper, Sylvia Caffey, Margaret Odems,
Bernice Richardson, Dora Ward, Rosie Brady, Pearl Seldon,
Betty Phillips, Alice Crumley, and Sylvia Cunningham filed a
complaint in this Court against Rockwell International
Corporation and Randall Division of Textron, Inc. Doc. #1.
Approximately four months later, the plaintiffs filed an
amended complaint against Meritor, Inc., Rockwell Automation
Inc., The Boeing Company, and Textron, Inc. Doc. #43.
amended complaint, the plaintiffs, residents or former
residents of Grenada County, Mississippi, seek to recover for
injuries to their homes and property caused by a
manufacturing plant located in Grenada, Mississippi. The
plaintiffs allege that they “are residents or former
residents of a neighborhood adjacent” to the
manufacturing plant, specifically, the “Eastern
Heights” neighborhood, and that the plant was operated
by: (1) Rockwell International Corporation, the predecessor
to Rockwell Automation, Inc., which itself is a predecessor
to The Boeing Company, from 1965 until 1985; and (2) Randall
Wheel Trim, a subsidiary of Textron, Inc., from 1985 until
the present. Doc. #43 at 1-6, 9. The plaintiffs further
allege that the plant, which was used to manufacture
chrome-plated wheel covers, utilized numerous chemicals,
including hexavalent chromium, and trichloroethylene
(“TCE”), and that these chemicals were illegally
dumped into the environment, with the defendants concealing
such disposal. The plaintiffs assert six claims arising from
the allegedly wrongful acts: (1) Fraud and Fraudulent
Concealment (Count I); (2) Civil Conspiracy (Count II); (3)
Negligence (Count III); (4) Nuisance (Count IV); (5) Trespass
(Count V); and (6) Intentional and/or Negligent Infliction of
Emotional Distress (Count VI). Subsequently, the parties
stipulated to the dismissal of Count I and Count II. Doc.
November 15, 2017, the defendants moved to sever the ten
plaintiffs into nine separate actions, with the claims of
Phillips and Crumley (asserted as joint representatives of
Hildred Johnson) remaining together. Doc. #414. The
plaintiffs responded in opposition to the motion on November
29, 2017, and the defendants replied on December 6, 2017.
Doc. #435; Doc. #450. On April 5, 2018, the defendants moved
to supplement their motion. Doc. #528. The plaintiffs did not
respond to the motion to supplement within the time allowed.
their motion to supplement, the defendants assert that, due
to delays by the plaintiffs, they only recently deposed
Phillips and that the deposition:
revealed (1) unique claims and corresponding defenses
regarding ownership of the residence at issue (and discrete
issues with … Plaintiff Alice Crumley, Ms.
Phillips' sister), (2) a potential personal injury claim
by Ms. Phillips, and (3) the failure to join necessary
parties to resolve Ms. Phillips' case, resulting in
potential incomplete relief.
Doc. #528 at 1-2. The defendants claim supplemental briefing
is warranted to show how “[t]hese individualized issues
raised by just one of the Plaintiffs' claims illustrate
precisely why severance is appropriate.” Id.
at 2. In essence, the defendants seek leave to argue that all
plaintiffs should be severed because Phillips should be
severed. Because the law of severance, as set forth below,
does not support such an argument, the motion to supplement
will be denied. The defendants may, however, raise their
arguments related to Phillips' joinder in a separate
motion to sever. Such motion must be filed within fourteen
days of this order.
to Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:
Persons may join in one action as plaintiffs if:
(A) they assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in
the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same
transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or
(B) any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will
arise in the action.
Fed. R Civ. P. 20(a)(1). Notwithstanding this provision, Rule
21 grants a district court broad discretion to “sever
any claim against a party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 21
(emphasis added); see Brunet v. United Gas Pipeline
Co., 15 F.3d 500, 505 (5th Cir. 1994) (“The trial
court has broad ...