United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
GWYNETTA GITTENS, DR. JERALD THOMPSON, STEPHANIE LAWRENCE and PRESTON TOWNS, Plaintiffs,
THE SCHOOL BOARD OF LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER 
POLSTER CHAPPELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Dr. Jerald
Thompson's (Dr. Thompson) Unopposed Motion to Sever
(Doc. 58). This is a Title VII case alleging racial
discrimination in Defendant's hiring practices. Dr.
Thompson moves to sever himself from this case and have the
Court create a new case file so he may proceed on his
individual case only. For the reasons below, the Motion is
authorizes district courts to “sever any claim against
any party.” “A district court also has broad
discretion when deciding whether to sever claims under Rule
21 and may consider factors such as judicial economy, case
management, prejudice to parties, and fundamental
fairness.” Potts v. B & R, LLC,
8:13-CV-2896-T-27TGW, 2014 WL 1612364 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 21,
2014); see Foster v. Auburn Univ.
Montgomery, No. 2:11-cv-503-WHA-CSC, 2011 WL 3875623, at
*4 (M.D. Ala. Sept.1, 2011) (“[A] court's decision
to sever parties under Rule 21 should be tempered by the
possibility of prejudice to the severed party.”);
Acciard v. Whitney, No. 2:07-cv-476-UA-DNF, 2008 WL
5120820, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 4, 2008) (“Courts are
given discretion to decide the scope of the civil action and
to make such orders as will prevent delay or
prejudice.”); Acevedo v. Allsup's Convenience
Stores, Inc., 600 F.3d 516, 521-22 (5th Cir. 2010)
(considering fundamental fairness of joinder to the parties).
Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(1) states that parties may
be joined 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). Joinder of parties is generally
encouraged in the interest of judicial economy, subject to
fulfillment of two prerequisites: (1) the persons who are
joined as plaintiffs must be interested in claims that arise
out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences; and (2) all the parties joined
must share in common at least one question of law or fact.
Alexander v. Fulton County, 207 F.3d 1303, 1323
(11th Cir. 2000), overruled other grounds, Manders v.
Lee, 338 F.3d 1304 (11th Cir. 2003).
Plainly, the central purpose of Rule 20 is to promote trial
convenience and expedite the resolution of disputes, thereby
eliminating unnecessary lawsuits. The Federal Rules, however,
also recognize countervailing considerations to judicial
economy. Rule 42(b), for example, provides for separate
trials where the efficiency of a consolidated trial is
outweighed by its potential prejudice to the litigants. The
Supreme Court has instructed the lower courts to employ a
liberal approach to permissive joinder of claims and parties
in the interest of judicial economy: ‘Under the Rules,
the impulse is towards entertaining the broadest possible
scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties;
joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly
encouraged.' United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383
U.S. 715, 724, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 1137, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966).
Id. at 1323 (internal citations omitted).
first requirement, the Eleventh Circuit has noted that
several courts have concluded that allegations of a
“pattern or practice” of discrimination may
“describe such logically related events and satisfy the
transaction requirement.” See
Alexander, 207 F.3d at 1323-24 (quoting
Blesedell v. Mobil Oil Co., 708 F.Supp. 1408, 1422
(S.D.N.Y. 1989) (“A company-wide policy purportedly
designed to discriminate against females in employment arises
out of the same series of transactions or
occurrences.”); King v. Pepsi Cola Metro. Bottling
Co., 86 F.R.D. 4, 6 (E.D. Pa. 1979) (noting that
allegations of a “pervasive policy of
discrimination” by the employer bring the
“complaints of individual Plaintiffs under the rubric
of the ‘same series of transactions'”)).
second requirement, the Eleventh Circuit has stated:
“several courts have found that the question of the
discriminatory character of a defendant's conduct can
satisfy the commonality requirement of Rule 20.”
Alexander, 207 F.3d at 1324 (citing Mosley v.
General Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330, 1334 (8th Cir.
1974) (finding that whether the threat of a racially
discriminatory policy hangs over a racial class is a question
of fact common to all the members of the class);
Blesedell, 708 F.Supp. at 1422 (noting that
“[i]n employment discrimination cases under Title VII,
courts have found that the discriminatory character of a
defendant's conduct is common to each plaintiff's
recovery”); cf. Grayson v. Kmart
Corp., 79 F.3d 1086, 1095-96 (11th Cir. 1996)
(suggesting that “a unified policy, plan, or scheme of
discrimination” can satisfy Rule 20's commonality
requirement). “The second prong does not require that
all questions of law and fact raised by the dispute be in
common, but only that some question of law or fact be in
common to all parties.” Id. at 1324.
other hand, the Eleventh Circuit has recognized the
“prejudicial effects of other witnesses' alleged
discriminatory experiences may outweigh their probative value
where, for example, the alleged discrimination occurs during
different time periods . . . different supervisors make the
challenged decisions, or the alleged discrimination ...