United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division
ROBERT A. HORNE, ERIC RICHARDS, and VICTOR CARRELL, Plaintiffs,
TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KIMBERLY C. PRIEST JOHNSON UNITED STATES JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Texas Department of
Transportation's (“TxDOT”) Motion to Sever
(the “Motion”) (Dkt. 5). Plaintiffs Robert Horne,
Eric Richards, and Victor Carrell (collectively
“Plaintiffs” and individually “Horne,
” “Richards, ” and “Carrell”)
filed a response opposing severance (Dkt. 6). The parties
discussed the Motion with the Court during the Management
Conference on October 22, 2019. See Dkt. 19. Upon
consideration, the Court finds Defendant's Motion (Dkt.
5) is DENIED.
were longtime employees of TxDOT and worked together at the
Sulphur Springs Yard (“the Yard”), a TxDOT
facility, between 2015 and February 2017. See Dkt.
1 at 5-6. During this time, Horne, a Native American, was
allegedly subjected to racially-based discriminatory and
disparate treatment by the Yard's supervisor, Clint
Traylor (“Traylor”), who was transferred by TxDOT
to the Yard sometime in 2015. See Id. at 6, 8. Horne
was the only Native American employed at the Yard during
Traylor's tenure. See Id. at 2. Horne repeatedly
complained that Traylor's racially-motivated disparate
treatment of him and TxDOT's responses to Traylor's
actions violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
(“Title VII”). See Id. at 1, 3, 4.
Richards and Carrell also repeatedly complained about the
treatment of Horne. See id. at 6. All three
Plaintiffs allege these complaints were protected conduct
under Title VII, as Plaintiffs were “opposing the
racially disparate mistreatment of Horne by Traylor and
others at the Sulphur Springs Yard.” See Dkt.
1 at 1, 10. All three Plaintiffs' complaints began in
2015, and continued through February 2017. See id.
December 16, 2016, TxDOT management staff Chad Ingram
(“Ingram”), Tommy Henderson
(“Henderson”), and Daniel Taylor
(“Taylor”) met individually with each Plaintiff.
See Dkt. 1 at 10. Horne was issued a twelve-month
probation and a five-day unpaid suspension as disciplinary
action. See id. at 11. Carrell and Richards were
each told TxDOT management had heard they were unhappy
working at the Yard and were offered the option to transfer
to another facility. See Id. at 10-11. Carrell and
Richards were further told they were not being accused of
misconduct or poor performance. See id. Carrell and
Richards each told management they did not wish to transfer,
and management assured Carrell and Richards that they would
not be reassigned out of the Yard. See id.
the December 16 meetings, Carroll and Richards continued to
complain about Horne's treatment to TxDOT officials,
including Henderson and TxDOT Human Resources employee
Catherine Hosteler. See Dkt. 1 at 12-13.
February 17, 2017, TxDOT transferred each Plaintiff to a
different TxDOT facility: Horne to the Cooper Yard, Richards
to the Emory Yard, and Carroll to the Mount Vernon Yard.
See Dkt. 4 at 5. The transfers were issued in person
by Henderson and Taylor. See Dkt. 1 at 13.
Plaintiffs allege the transfers were made in retaliation for
their protected complaints. See id. at 4. Soon after
the transfers, Horne retired early. See id. at 14.
Carrell and Richards remained employed at the TxDOT
facilities to which they were transferred. See id.
September 2017, Plaintiffs filed complaints with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)
against TxDOT, in which Horne alleged racial discrimination,
age discrimination, and retaliation, and Richards and Carrell
alleged age discrimination and retaliation in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination
in Employment Act. See Dkt. 1 at 21-23. After
Plaintiffs received their right to sue letters from the EEOC,
they filed the present suit on June 30, 2019. See
Dkt. 1, Exhibit A. All three Plaintiffs seek back pay and
lost retirement benefits, among other damages. See
Dkt. 1 at 17.
filed the Motion on grounds of misjoinder, seeking to sever
Plaintiffs' claims prior to the initial mandatory
disclosure deadline of August 22, 2019. See Dkt. 8
at 1-2. As the initial mandatory disclosure deadline passed
before the case was transferred to the undersigned, the Court
allowed the parties to address the Motion at the Management
Conference on October 22, 2019. See Dkt. 16.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21, trial courts are afforded
broad discretion to ‘sever any claim against a
party.'” Jones v. Dematic Corp., No.
3:13-cv-1334-O, 2013 WL 12129709, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 8,
2013) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 21; Reid v. Gen. Motors
Corp., 240 F.R.D. 260, 263 (E.D. Tex. Jan.16, 2007)).
Rule 20 sets forth a two-prong test, allowing joinder of
parties when: (1) their claims arise out of the same
transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or
occurrences; and (2) there is at least one common question of
law or fact linking all the claims. See Acevedo v.
Allsup's Convenience Stores, Inc., 600 F.3d 516, 521
(5th Cir. 2010). Misjoinder of parties is not a ground for
dismissing an action, but the Court may add or drop a party.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establishes that
“[o]n motion or on its own, the court may at any time,
on just terms, add or drop a party, ” and “[t]he
court may sever any claim against a party.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. Under Rule 21, a “district court has
the discretion to sever an action if it is misjoined or might
otherwise cause delay or prejudice.” Applewhite v.
Reichhold Chems., 67 F.3d 571, 574 (5th Cir. 1995).
Trial courts have broad discretion to sever issues to be
tried before it. Brunet v. United Gas Pipeline Co.,
15 F.3d 500, 505 (5th Cir. 1994). However, courts will refuse
to sever claims if “the court believes that it only
will result in delay, inconvenience, or added expense.”
In re Rolls Royce Corp., 775 F.3d 671, 680 n.40 (5th
district has maintained that Rule 21 ‘should be read in
conjunction with Rules 18, 19 and 20,' because Rule 21
contains no standards governing its operation, but is invoked
when violation of another rule occurs.” Texas
Farmers Insurance Company v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp.,
321 F.R.D. 561, 563 (E.D. Tex. 2017) (citing Americans
for Fair Patent Use, LLC v. Sprint Nextel Corp., No.
2:10-CV-237-TJW, 2011 WL 98279, at *2 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 12,
2011)). And the Fifth Circuit has held that “district
courts have considerable discretion to deny joinder when it
would not facilitate judicial economy and when different
witnesses and documentary proof would be required for
plaintiff's claims.” Acevedo, 600 F.3d at
522. Therefore, “the Court finds it appropriate to
utilize Rule 20 cases in determining whether to sever
properly joined claims to the extent they weigh on fairness,
judicial economy, and prejudice.” Texas Farmers
Insurance Company, 321 F.R.D. at 563.