United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
OPINION AND ORDER
MELINDA HARMON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Sever (Doc. 15), as
well as Plaintiffs' Response (Doc. 18) and
Defendants' Reply (Doc. 19). Upon review and
consideration of the Motion, Response, Reply, the relevant
legal authority, and for the reasons explained below, the
Court finds that Defendants' Motion should be denied.
Elizabeth Aguirre (“Aguirre”), Abid Momin
(“Momin”), and Kassirim Onyeri
“Plaintiffs”) were formerly employed by Valerus
Field Solutions L.P. (“Defendant Valerus”), each
working various positions in the company throughout his or
her employment period. Doc. 1 ¶¶ 3-17. Plaintiffs
allege that Defendant Valerus, as well as Garland King and
Lawrence McKinnon (collectively, “Defendants”)
discriminated against them on the basis of their race or
national origin and retaliated against Plaintiffs for
engaging in activities protected by Title VII. Id.
Aguirre and Onyeri contend that Defendants discriminated and
retaliated against them on the basis of their sex.
Id. ¶¶ 18-27. Aguirre and Onyeri also
allege violations of the Equal Pay Act and retaliation under
the Equal Pay Act. Id. Solely, Onyeri argues that
Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of a
disability. Id. ¶¶ 27-28. In sum,
Defendants are faced with three individual Plaintiffs
asserting a total of at least eighteen claims against them in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, 29 U.S.C. § 206 (the Equal Pay Act),
and 42 U.S.C. § 12101 (the Americans with Disabilities
Standard of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 21 provides: “Misjoinder of
parties is not a ground for dismissing an action. On motion
or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms, add
or drop a party. The court may also sever any claim against a
party.” The district court has broad discretion to
sever claims and parties in a lawsuit. Anderson v. Red
River Waterway Comm'n, 231 F.3d 211, 214 (5th Cir.
2000). Under Rules 21, severance creates “two separate
actions or suits where previously there was but one.”
United States v. O'Neill, 709 F.2d 361, 268 (5th
Cir. 1983). The severed claims proceed as independent
actions, and a court may render a final judgment in either
one of the resulting two actions “notwithstanding the
continued existence of unresolved claims in the other.”
Id. When deciding whether parties were properly
joined under Rule 20(a), the Court considers (1) whether the
right to relief arises “out of the same transaction,
occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences, ”
and (2) whether there is a question of law or fact common to
both plaintiffs. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a). Joinder
of parties is strongly encouraged. See, e.g.,
Blum v. General Elec. Co., 547 F.Supp.2d 717, 722
(W.D. Tex. 2008). This is particularly true in the employment
discrimination context. See Castillo v. Lennar
Corp., 2008 WL 4425298, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 23, 2008)
(citing Alexander v. Fulton Cnty., 207 F.3d 1303,
1322 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc)).
Rule 42(b) provides that a court has discretion to order
separate trials of claims “in furtherance of
convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials
will be conducive to expedition and economy.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b). “Thus, the two primary factors to
be considered in determining whether to order separate trials
are efficient judicial administration and potential
prejudice.” Divine Restoration Apostolic Church v.
Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 2010 WL 1064727, at *2 (S.D.
Tex. 2010). Separation of issues for separate trials is
“not the usual course that should be followed.”
McDaniel v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 987 F.2d 298, 304
(5th Cir. 1993).
In re Rolls Royce Corp., the Fifth Circuit
acknowledged that while it has not yet adopted a test for
severance, a number of its district courts have applied the
five-factor test of Paragon Office Services, LLC v.
United Healthcare Insurance Co.: whether (1) the claims
arise out of the same transaction or occurrence; (2) the
claims present some common question of law or fact; (3)
settlement of the claims or judicial economy would be
facilitated; (4) prejudice would be avoided if severance were
granted; and (5) different witnesses and documentary proof
are required for the separate claims. 755 F.3d 671, 680 n.40
(5th Cir. 2014) (citing 2012 WL 444236, at *1 (N.D. Tex.
Sept. 26, 2012)). “‘[S]everance will be refused
if the court believes that it only will result in delay,
inconvenience, or added expense.'” Id.
(quoting Wright & Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc.
§ 1689 (3d ed. 2004)). The impulse is towards
considering the broadest possible scope of action consistent
with fairness to the parties. HC4, Inc. Emp. Stock
Ownership Plan v. HC4, Inc., 2016 WL 109880, at *6 (S.D.
Tex. Jan. 11, 2016) (citing United Mine Workers v.
Gibbs, 383 U.S. 714, 724, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218
(1966)). Accordingly, “joinder of claims, parties and
remedies is strongly encouraged.” United Mine
Workers, 383 U.S. at 724.
the Fifth Circuit has not adopted a particular test to decide
what is “the same transaction or occurrence”
under the first factor, Carter v. Diamond URS Huntsville,
LLC, 175 F.Supp.3d 711, 727 (S.D. Tex. 2016), several of
its district courts employ the Eighth Circuit's
“logically related” test. See, e.g.,
Stinnette v. Medtronic, Inc., 2010 WL 767558, at *1
(S.D. Tex. Mar. 3, 2010). Under this test, “all
‘logically related' events entitling a person to
institute a legal action against another generally are
regarded as comprising a transaction or occurrence.”
Mosely v. GMC, 497 F.2d 1330, 1333 (8th Cir. 1974)
(citing 7 C. Wright, Fed. Prac. and Proc. §
1653 at 270 (1972)). As the Eight Circuit explained,
“as used in Rule 20 [the terms] would permit all
reasonably related claims for relief by or against different
parties to be tried in a single proceeding. Absolute identity
of all events is unnecessary.” Id.
the second Paragon Office factor, a number of courts
have held that the “common question” can be
satisfied by the presence of only a single one.
Carter, 175 F.Supp.3d at 727 (citing Tex.
Instruments, Inc. v. Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., 266
F.R.D. 143, 148 (N.D. Tex. 2010) (“[D]efendants may be
joined together in the same action only if (1) ‘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 (2) at least one
‘question of law or fact common to all of them will
arise in the action.”')). However, the “mere
fact that all Plaintiffs' claims arise under the same
general law” is insufficient for a finding of a common
question of law or fact. Castro v. Freeman, 2011 WL
13140728, at *10 (S.D. Tex. April 26, 2011) (citing
Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1349 (9th Cir.
Same Transaction or Occurrence
maintain that Plaintiffs' claims are “highly
individualized and . . . based on discrete occurrences
involving different legal issues, standards, and
procedures.” Doc. 15 at 14. Plaintiffs were affected by
the alleged discrimination in different ways, and each
Plaintiff raises different claims against Defendants.
Id. Moreover, many of the alleged similar incidents
cited by Plaintiffs ...