Murray et al v. The Standard Fire Insurance Company
MEMORANDUM & ORDER. For the reasons outlined in the M&O, all claims of Plaintiffs, with the exception of MAUREEN MURRAY are sua sponte SEVERED and DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to commencing separate actions for each insurance policy issued by Defendan t. Any plaintiff wishing to commence a separate action must do so within 30 days of the date of this Order. Additionally, the statute(s) of limitations for any claim asserted herein is tolled for a period of 30 days from the date of this Order. Parties Thomas Cuddihy, Eileen Baumann, and Mary Cuddihy are TERMINATED from this action. Ordered by Judge Joanna Seybert on 12/17/2013. (Nohs, Bonnie)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
MAUREEN MURRAY, EILEEN BAUMANN, and
THOMMAS CUDDIHY AND MARY CUDDIHY,
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
THE STANDARD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY,
Sean Greenwood, Esq.
Gauthier Houghtaling & Williams
52 Duane Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10007
SEYBERT, District Judge:
On October 29, 2013, plaintiffs Maureen Murray, Eileen
Baumann, and Thomas and Mary Cuddihy (collectively, “Plaintiffs”)
commenced this action against defendant The Standard Fie Insurance
Each plaintiff, or set of plaintiffs,
assert their own breach of contract claims against Defendant based
insurance claim for property damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.
For the following reasons, all claims of Plaintiffs, with the
exception of the claims of the first-named plaintiff, Maureen
Murray, are sua sponte SEVERED from this action pursuant to Rules
20 and 21 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and DISMISSED
insurance policy issued by Defendant.
Plaintiffs separately own real property in this judicial
district and separately purchased from Defendant flood insurance
policies to cover their respective properties.
(Compl. ¶¶ 1, 4,
participating in the National Flood Insurance Program pursuant to
the National Flood Insurance Act.
(Compl. ¶¶ 3-4.)
Each plaintiff alleges damage to his or her property due
to flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy, which struck the New York
Plaintiffs claim that they submitted valid insurance claims to
limited payment on the claims of each Plaintiff.”
(Compl. ¶ 13a
contract claim against Defendant based on Defendant’s alleged
failure or refusal to pay each Plaintiff’s individual insurance
(Compl. ¶¶ 16-21.)
Based on the allegations of the Complaint, Plaintiffs’
claims share very little in common.
Although Plaintiffs allege
The following facts are drawn from the Complaint and are
presumed to be true for the purposes of this Memorandum and
Policies” (Compl. ¶ 3), they do not state whether the policies are
damag[ed]” their properties (Compl. ¶ 11), they do not explain the
nature and extent of the damage to these distinct properties.
Plaintiffs do not explain why Defendant denied their claims or
limited payment, or even whether Defendant did so for the same
different locations in two different New York counties.
Plaintiffs allege that their claims are properly joined
under Rule 20(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “because
they present similar claims against a common Defendant and involve
questions of fact or law that are common to all Plaintiffs.”
(Compl. ¶ 7.)
The Court disagrees.
As explained below, the facts
alleged in the Complaint do not satisfy the first precondition to
joinder under Rule 20(a), i.e., that each Plaintiff’s claim arises
out of the same “transaction” or “occurrence.”
Permissive Joinder of Parties
Rule 20(a)(1) permits the joinder of multiple plaintiffs
in an action 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
occurrences; and (B) any question of law or fact common to all
plaintiffs will arise in the action.”
FED. R. CIV. P. 20(a)(1).
These elements are preconditions and both must be met for joinder
to be proper.
Deskovic v. City of Peekskill, 673 F. Supp. 2d 154,
159 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (“As is clear from the plain language of [the
Rule], both criteria must be met for joinder to be proper.”).
While “[t]he requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a) are to be
interpreted liberally to enable the court to promote judicial
economy by permitting all reasonably related claims for relief by
or against different parties to be tried in a single proceeding,
the requirements of the rule still must be met and constrain the
Kalie v. Bank of Am. Corp., --- F.R.D. ----
, 2013 WL 4044951, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2013) (alteration in
the original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
“If a court concludes that [parties] have been improperly joined
under Rule 20, it has broad discretion under Rule 21 to sever
[those] parties . . . from the action.”
In determining whether claims arise out of the same
“transaction” or “occurrence” under Rule 20(a), “courts are to
look to the logical relationship between the claims and determine
‘whether the essential facts of the various claims are so logically
connected that considerations of judicial economy and fairness
dictate that all the issues be resolved in one lawsuit.’”
(quoting United States v. Aquavella, 615 F.2d 12, 22 (2d Cir.
Plaintiffs bear the burden of demonstrating that joinder
is proper under Rule 20(a).
Deskovic, 673 F. Supp. 2d at 159.
Here, Plaintiffs’ claims do not arise out of the same
transaction or occurrence.
Courts in this District have recently
applied the standards set forth above to almost identical lawsuits
Superstorm Sandy and have summarily held that joinder is not
See, e.g., Dante v. Nat’l Flood Ins. Program, No.
13-CV-6207, 2013 WL 6157182, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 22, 2013)
(collecting similar cases from the Eastern District of Louisiana
insurance claims related to property damage caused by Hurricane
Katrina); Baiardi v. The Standard Fire Ins. Co., No. 13-CV-5912,
2013 WL 6157231, at *2-3 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 21, 2013). As these courts
recognized, despite the fact that a single natural disaster,
Superstorm Sandy, caused the damage to Plaintiffs’ properties,
Plaintiffs’ claims do not arise out of the same transaction or
factual and legal issues, including each property's respective
properties, and the extent of damage sustained.”
Dante, 2013 WL
6157182, at *2 (quoting Sucherman v. Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co.,
Nos. 06–CV-8765, 05–CV-6456, 2007 WL 1484067, at *2 (E.D. La. May
Thus, with respect to damages, Plaintiffs’ individual
claims undoubtedly will require different evidence relating to the
cause of and the extent of the loss. Plaintiffs’ individual claims
also may require particularized evidence on the issue of whether
the policies actually provide coverage for Plaintiffs’ claims
Defendant may have different reasons for denying and/or limiting
payment for each Plaintiff’s individual claim.
As far as the Court can tell from the Complaint here,
the only material commonalities between Plaintiffs’ claims are
that Plaintiffs’ properties suffered damages caused by the same
storm and that Plaintiffs present similar legal theories against
a common defendant.
However, the mere presence of a common
defendant and “common questions of law or fact does not satisfy
the same transaction or occurrence requirement.”
Id. at *3
(holding that plaintiffs’ separate insurance claims for damages
transaction or occurrence because plaintiffs “failed to explain
why their individual claims should be joined other than that they
share two common facts––that they were brought about by Hurricane
Sandy and brought against [the same defendant]––and may raise
similar theories of law”) (quoting McNaughton v. Merck & Co., No.
04-CV-8297, 2004 WL 5180726, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 17, 2004)); see
Abraham v. Am. Home Mortg. Servicing, Inc., --- F. Supp. 2d ----,
2013 WL 2285205, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. May 23, 2013) (holding that
plaintiffs’ “separate mortgage transactions d[id] not constitute
a single transaction or occurrence” and stating that “even claims
by plaintiffs who engaged in separate loan transactions by the
same lender cannot be joined in a single action”).
Plaintiffs’ claims, the Court therefore finds that Plaintiffs’
claims are not properly joined under Rule 20(a).
claims of Plaintiffs, with the exception of the claims of the
first-named plaintiff, Maureen Murray, are sua sponte SEVERED from
this action pursuant to Rule 20 and DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to
commencing separate actions for each insurance policy issued by
See Kalie, 2013 WL 4044951, at *6 (holding that where
there is “no common transaction or occurrence, severance and
dismissal of the misjoined claims is mandatory”).
Severance Under Rule 21
Finally, the Court notes that, even if the presence of
a common defendant or a single natural disaster were sufficient to
satisfy Rule 20(a), the Court would reach the same result in
exercising its discretion under Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of
Rule 21 provides, in relevant part, that “[o]n
motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms,
add or drop a party . . . [and] sever any claim against any party.”
FED. R. CIV. P. 21.
In deciding whether to sever a claim under Rule 21,
courts generally consider, in addition to the preconditions set
forth in Rule 20(a), “ whether settlement of the claims or
judicial economy would be facilitated;  whether prejudice would
be avoided if severance were granted; and  whether different
witnesses and documentary proof are required for the separate
Crown Cork & Seal Co., Inc. Master Retirement Trust v.
Credit Suisse First Boston Corp., 288 F.R.D. 331, 333 (S.D.N.Y.
2013) (quoting Erausquin v. Notz, Stucki Mgmt. (Bermuda) Ltd., 806
F. Supp. 2d 712, 720 (S.D.N.Y. 2011)).
“A court should consider
whether severance will ‘serve the ends of justice and further the
prompt and efficient disposition of litigation.’”
Crown Cork, 288
F.R.D. at 332 (quoting T.S.I. 27, Inc. v. Berman Enters., Inc.,
115 F.R.D. 252, 254 (S.D.N.Y. 1987)); see also In re Ski Train
Fire in Kaprun, Austria, on November 11, 2004, 224 F.R.D. 543, 546
Here, joinder of Plaintiffs’ claims involving separate
insurance policies does not serve the interest of judicial economy.
There will be little, if any, overlapping discovery and each
Plaintiff’s individual breach of contract claims will require
distinct witnesses and documentary proof.
See Boston Post Rd.
Med. Imaging, P.C. v. Allstate Ins. Co., No 03-CV-3923, 2004 WL
1586429, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 15, 2004) (severing breach of
because joinder would not serve the interests of judicial economy
Furthermore, settlement of the claims is likely
to be facilitated if the claims relating to separate insurance
policies are litigated separately.
See Adams v U.S. Bank, NA, No.
12-CV-4640, 2013 WL 5437060, at * 4 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 27, 2013).
addition, “[a] joint trial could lead to confusion of the jury and
thereby prejudice defendant.”
Kalie, 2013 WL 4044951, at * 6
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Thus, for these
reasons, the Court also finds that the Rule 21 factors require
severance of all claims besides those of the first-named plaintiff,
For the foregoing reasons, all claims of Plaintiffs,
with the exception of the claims of the first-named plaintiff,
Maureen Murray, are sua sponte SEVERED pursuant to Rules 20 and 21
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE to commencing separate actions for each insurance policy
issued by Defendant.
Any plaintiff wishing to commence a separate
action must do so within thirty (30) days of the date of this
Memorandum and Order.
[BOTTOM OF PAGE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK]
Additionally, the statute(s) of limitations for any
claim asserted herein is tolled for a period of thirty (30) days
from the date of this Memorandum and Order.
/s/ JOANNA SEYBERT______
Joanna Seybert, U.S.D.J.
17 , 2013
Central Islip, NY
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