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December 20, 2005

More Improper Joinder in Mississippi

The Mississippi Supreme Court has again reversed a trial court's denial of a defendant's motion to sever plaintiffs' claims in two so-called "mass tort" cases.  In 3M Company, et al. v. Letha Glass, et al., #2003-IA-00617-SCT and 3M Company, et al. v. Charles H. Green, et al., #2003-IA-00476-SCT, decided on December 15, 2005, the 15 plaintiffs claimed silica-related injuries caused by one or more of 76 defendants but without identifying which defendant(s) were allegedly responsible for which plaintiff's harm.  Applying the rules earlier set forth in Janssen Pharmacertica v. Armond, 866 So. 2d 1092 (Miss. 2004) and Harold's Auto Parts, Inc. v. Mangialardi, 889 So. 2d 493 (Miss. 2004), the court said that "[w]e think it reasonable to expect counsel to know prior to filing suit the identity of each client, the defendant each client proposes to sue, the alleged harm committed by specific defendants against each client, the location and period of time the harm was committed."  Without this "necessary information" in the plaintiffs' pleadings, a defendant cannot evalutate and challenge, if appropriate, joinder of two or more plaintiffs.  The court also pointed out that these fundamental pleading failures leave the trial court without sufficient information to determine whether joinder is appropriate.  The supreme court noted that its decision in Armond had removed Mississippi from its "dubious distinction as extremely liberal on Rule 20 joinder" and brought the state's law more into line with other states' and the federal courts' joinder rules.  The court's remand order allows plaintiffs' counsel 60 days to provide the required information and directs the trial court to dismiss the claims of all plaintiffs failing to comply or whose cases are not properly venued in Mississippi and to transfer to a court of proper venue the claims of each plaintiff who complies. 

JDP

December 20, 2005 | Permalink

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