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Rochelle Wynes, et al v. Kaiser Permanente Hospitals

October 14, 2011

ROCHELLE WYNES, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KAISER PERMANENTE HOSPITALS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Sever the claims of Plaintiffs Rochelle Wynes and Marsha Scribner ("Motion"). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is denied without prejudice.*fn1

BACKGROUND

This action was originally filed on March 23, 2010, by Rochelle Wynes, Carmela Ray, Linda Baerresen, Marsha Scribner and Roes 1-75 against Kaiser Permanente Hospitals, Kaiser Permanente, Inc. (together "Kaiser"), a number of individual supervisory Kaiser employees and Does 1-100. The named Plaintiffs were registered nurses employed as senior discharge planners at various Kaiser facilities. According to Plaintiffs, each named Plaintiff was over forty (40) years old and was fired in 2008 or 2009 only to be replaced by a younger employee. Plaintiffs' common claims were based on age discrimination.

This Court granted Defendants' first Motion to Dismiss on August 13, 2010. Rochelle Wynes, Marsha Scribner, Linda Baerresen and Ruth Simpson thereafter filed a First Amended Complaint against the above-named Defendants and one additional individual Defendant. On March 31, 2011, this Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' second Motion to Dismiss.

Plaintiffs Rochelle Wynes and Marsha Scribner subsequently filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), and the parties stipulated to the dismissal of all claims brought by Plaintiffs Ruth Simpson and Linda Baerresen. Pursuant to the SAC, both remaining Plaintiffs were wrongfully terminated by supervisory employees acting within the course and scope of their employment and under the knowing direction or acquiescence of their employer, Kaiser. SAC, ¶ 20.

Both Plaintiffs, who admittedly worked at different Kaiser locations, and thus were supervised by different employees, assert ADEA, wrongful termination, breach of contract and ERISA claims against Kaiser, as well as IIED claims against the individual Defendants. Plaintiff Wynes also alleges an independent ADA claim and a discrimination and retaliation claim against Kaiser, and Plaintiff Scribner asserts an individual assault and battery claim against Defendant Zayac.

In the operative Complaint, Plaintiffs contend, in pertinent part, that Plaintiff Scribner was terminated for pretextual reasons and that Plaintiff Wynes was "given negative evaluations, the ploy of Kaiser, in place for many years, and the policy for pretermination activities once the plan to terminate had been formulated for that employee." Id., ¶¶ 22-23. Plaintiffs essentially allege that Kaiser developed a "plan" designed to justify wrongful terminations. Id., ¶ 24. More specifically, Plaintiffs contend that Kaiser: commenced a course of conduct designed to appear to justify the intended termination, carried out to conclude the employment of...the senior planners in several local hospitals. It began to fabricate allegations of poor performance. Defendant employer created contrived disciplinary write-ups falsely depicting a deficient employee in order to justify its intended planned retaliatory termination.

Id. In support of their breach of contract cause of action, Plaintiffs likewise allege that Kaiser "formulated a plan to falsify information for the purpose of fabricating a reason to terminate them and when it intentionally deprived them of the pension rights and benefits previously promised in employment contracts and the plan itself." Id., ¶ 47.

Defendants answered the SAC and have now filed the current Motion to Sever the claims of Plaintiffs Wynes and Scribner.

STANDARD

Rule 20(a) provides for the joinder of 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 occurrences; and (B) any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action." "The permissive joinder rule 'is to be construed liberally in order to promote trial convenience and to expedite the final determination of disputes, thereby preventing multiple lawsuits.'" Robinson v. Geithner, 2011 WL 66158, *5 (E.D. Cal.) (quoting League to Save Lake Tahoe v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency, 558 F.2d 914, 917 (9th Cir. 1997)). Rule 20 is intended to "address the 'broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged.'" Id. (quoting United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724 (1966)).

Pursuant to Rule 20(b), "[t]he court may issue orders--including an order to sever trials--to protect a party against embarrassment, delay, expense, or other prejudice that arises from including a person against whom the party asserts no claim and who asserts no claim against the party."

Accordingly, "[e]ven once [the Rule 20(a)] requirements are met, a district court must examine whether permissive joinder would comport with the principles of fundamental fairness or would result in prejudice to either side." Coleman v. Quaker Oats Co., 232 F.3d 1271, 1296 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Thus, ...


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