Roberson v. McDonald Transit Associates, Inc.
ORDER denying 49 Motion for a Separate Trial. Signed by District Judge Michael P. Mills on 8/9/2017. (lpm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CARROL D. ROBERSON
Civil Action No.: 3:16-cv-00162-MPM-RP
MCDONALD TRANSIT ASSOCIATES, INC.;
OXFORD TRANSIT MANAGEMENT,
INC.; & RONALD BIGGS
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Roberson’s Motion for a Separate Trial
 on the counterclaim filed by Defendant/counter Plaintiff Oxford Transit Management, Inc.
within its answer to the Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint . Defendant, Oxford Transit
Management (“OTM”), has subsequently filed a Response  in opposition to Plaintiff’s
motion. This Court has considered the submissions of the parties, along with relevant case law
and evidence, and is now prepared to rule.
In Roberson’s Amended Complaint, filed on February 14, 2017, OTM was first named a
Defendant to this suit. The sole defendant prior to the Amended Complaint, McDonald Transit
Associates, Inc., appealed the Magistrate’s Order granting Roberson leave to amend his initial
complaint. On June 20, 2017, this Court denied Defendant McDonald’s Motion to Appeal the
Magistrate’s decision. The Summons and Amended Complaint were then served on OTM on
June 22, 2017, and OTM subsequently filed its Answer to Amended Complaint and Counterclaim
on June 26, 2017.
OTM’s Counterclaim alleges that the conduct of Roberson “rises to the level of public
nuisance based upon his harassing conduct as a passenger on the Oxford University Transit
System bus” [46, page 7]. OTM states in its counterclaim that Roberson has “harass[ed] the
driver” of an OTM bus on at least one occasion, and has made it difficult for at least one driver
to perform his work duties.
A counterclaim is compulsory if “at the time of […] service,” the pleading party has a
claim that (1) “arises out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the
opposing party’s claim,” and (2) “does not require adding another party over whom the court
cannot acquire jurisdiction.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(a)(1). In addition to compulsory counterclaims,
Rule 13(b) provides for permissive counterclaims, providing that “[a] pleading may state as a
counterclaim against an opposing party any claim that is not compulsory.” Fed R. Civ. P. 13(b).
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow Courts the discretion to sever counterclaims
from original claims and order separate trials. Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
For convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may
order a separate trial of one of more separate issues, claims, crossclaims,
counterclaims, or third-party claims.
FED. R. CIV. P. 42(b).
These Rules collectively provide the Court broad discretion on whether to join or sever
claims and counterclaims, depending on the individual circumstances in each case. The Court
may order a separate trial of a counter claim “[f]or convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to
expedite and economize […].” Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b). “The question is usually addressed to the
sound discretion of the court.” Lusk v. Pennzoil United, Inc., 56 F.R.D. 645, 647 (N.D. Miss.
1972). “[T]he issue to be tried must be so distinct and separate from the others that a trial of it
alone may be had without injustice.” McDaniel v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 987 F.2d 298, 305 (5th
Cir. 1993). This limitation is marked by the recognition that it is inherent in each party’s
Seventh Amendment right to have one jury decide common issues of fact. Id. (citing State of Ala.
v. Blue Bird Body Co., 573 F.2d 309, 318 (5th Cir. 1978)).
In the present Motion for a Separate Trial, Roberson requests that this Court sever the
counterclaim by OTM from the original claim by ordering a separate trial for OTM’s
counterclaim. In the Motion, Roberson asserts Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, which allows the Court, at its discretion, to order a separate trial for counterclaims.
However, the Plaintiff lacks an argument for why the Court should separate the trials of the
claims and counterclaims, or what prejudice resolving the two claims in one trial would place on
the Plaintiff. In addition, this Court does not accept or agree with the Plaintiff’s inference that a
separation of the claims for the purpose of trial would expedite or economize the judicial
Plaintiff also asserts “there [are] no common elements” between his claim for gross
negligence and OTM’s claim for public nuisance. While there are different legal factors and
elements to apply for claims of negligence and nuisance, both claims appear to arise out of the
same operative facts. In fact, OTM asserts in its Response, that video surveillance footage of
“Event/Incident No. 2” will be used as evidence of Roberson’s conduct that allegedly rises to the
level of public nuisance. Event/Incident No. 2 is the same event in which Roberson claims OTM
acted negligently. To litigate the same set of facts twice would burden the court and would
certainly not expedite the judicial process.
With regard to the Motion for a Separate Trial  at hand, this Court finds that the
counterclaim and claim should not be severed into separate trials, as the counterclaim is
appropriate to be tried in the same trial as the original claims, since it arises from the same set of
facts and involves the same parties. This Court does not foresee that a separate trial would be
more “convenien(t)”, “expedite” the judicial process, or expressly “prejudice” any party
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that the Plaintiff’s Motion for a Separate Trial is
SO ORDERED, this the 9th day of August, 2017.
/s/ MICHAEL P. MILLS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
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