CIVIL ACTION NO: 03-2889, SECTION: “R”United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana.
April 5, 2004
ORDER AND REASONS
SARAH VANCE, District Judge
Before the Court is the exception of improper joinder filed by defendants Wayne Rousseau, Barbara Rousseau, Wayne Rousseau II, Brigette Smith, Clayton Kresge, David L. Bell Associates, L.L.C., HJS Enterprises, L.L.C., Harry Sorrell, III, and Standard Collision, Inc. The Court construed defendants’ filing as a motion to dismiss. For the following reasons, the Court denies defendants’ motion.
On January 24, 2002, Wayne Rousseau filed a suit in this Court against 3 Eagles Aviation, Inc. Rousseau sought a declaratory judgment that the promissory note executed in favor of 3 Eagles and personally guaranteed by him was void. In that
suit, the Court entered a judgment in favor of 3 Eagles against Rousseau in the amount of $1,341,462.14 as of June 24, 2002 plus interest at a rate of $556.44 per diem. The Court also entered a second judgment in favor of 3 Eagles against Rousseau in the amount of $49,660.68 on April 2, 2003. 3 Eagles filed this suit to nullify numerous conveyances and encumbrances of Rousseau’s property that he made after he brought the previous lawsuit against 3 Eagles. Plaintiff 3 Eagles alleges that Rousseau has caused or increased his insolvency through a series of donations to various family members, by placing mortgages on previously unencumbered property, and through a series of fraudulent conveyances or simulated sales. Plaintiff’s complaint identifies five specific pieces of immovable property that these donations, mortgages, transfers and/or simulated sales have affected. Plaintiff filed this suit against Rousseau and various other parties involved in each of the contested transactions. A number of these defendants now object to their joinder, arguing that plaintiff’s complaint against them should be dismissed. Plaintiff opposes defendants’ motion and argues that the defendants are necessary parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a).
Defendants argue that each of the conveyances of property made by Rousseau is a distinct transaction because the transactions involved separate parties, separate mortgages, and multiple lenders, and occurred at different times. The various conveyances, according to the defendants, do not constitute the same transaction or occurrence, and therefore the joinder of the defendants does not meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20.
A. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
The questions of joinder is procedural and therefore controlled by the federal rules. See Har-Pen Truck Lines, Inc. v. Mills, 378 F.2d 705, 708 (5th Cir. 1967) (citing Doyle v. Stanolind Oil Gas Co., 123 F.2d 900, 903 (5th Cir. 1941)). As an overarching consideration when applying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Supreme Court has emphasized that “the impulse is toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged.”United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724
B. Rule 20(a)
Rule 20(a) permits joinder of parties under certain conditions:
All persons . . . may be joined in one action as
defendants if there is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative, any right to relief in respect of or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences and if any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.
FED. R. CIV. P. 20(a). Because plaintiff does not assert a right to relief against the defendants jointly, severally, or in the alternative, joinder of the movants does not qualify as permissible joinder under Rule 20(a). The analysis of whether joinder of these parties is proper does not end with Rule 20, however, as defendants’ motion suggests. The Court considers the propriety of joinder in light of Rules 18 and 19.
C. Rule 18(a)
Defendants do not dispute that Rousseau is a proper party to plaintiff’s action. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a), “[a] party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim . . . may join, either as independent or as alternative claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.”See FED. R. CIV. P. 18(a). Plaintiff filed this action to nullify several transactions between Rousseau and other parties. Although plaintiff’s claims against Rousseau may involve distinct transactions, the Court finds that Rule 18(a) allows plaintiff to bring all of its claims against Rousseau based on these various transactions in one lawsuit. Cf. Title Ins. Co. of MN v. Allison, 1989 WL 37148, *3 (E.D.La.) (concluding that joinder was proper because “[a]lthough
plaintiff’s claims involve three separate parcels and various other defendants, all of the claims involve the allegedly fraudulently [sic] acts of defendant”).
D. Rule 19
The Court next turns to whether plaintiff properly joined the remaining movants in this suit. The remaining movants are all parties to the various transactions identified in plaintiff’s suit. Rule 19(a) describes when parties are necessary to an action:
A person who is subject to service of process and whose joinder will not deprive the court of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action shall be joined as a party in the action if (1) in the person’s absence complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties, or (2) the person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that the disposition of the action in the person’s absence may (i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person’s ability to protect that interest or (ii) leave any of the persons already parties subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations by reason of the claimed interest.
FED. R. CIV. P. 19(a).
Here, plaintiff seeks to nullify several conveyances of and * encumbrances on property owned by Rousseau. The remaining movants are recipients of the transferred interests and/or parties to mortgages on the properties at issue, and therefore they clearly have an interest in the subject matter of this action. Their absence may impede their ability to protect their interests. See FED. R. CIV. P. 19(a)(2)(i). As the Fifth Circuit
has noted, a party with an interest in land “has the right to present his evidence that this was a valid conveyance under full consideration and that he properly retains . . . [an] interest in the land.” Scoggins v. Fredrick, 629 F.2d 426, 427 (5th Cir. 1980). Courts have required joinder under Rule 19 of parties with a variety of interests in the land at issue. See, e.g., Scoggins, 629 F.2d at 427-28 (concluding that a person who retains a usufruct was an indispensable party under Rule 19); Doty v. St. Mary Parish Land Co., 598 F.2d 885, 886-88 (5th Cir. 1979) (holding that a mineral lessee is an indispensable party under Rule 19); JML Investments, Inc. v. Acer Petroleum Corp., 2001 WL 376331, *2-4 (N.D.Tex.) (finding that a royalty holder is a necessary party under Rule 19(a)). Further, the parties do not dispute that these defendants are subject to service of process, and their joinder does not deprive the Court of jurisdiction.
Accordingly, the Court finds that the movants are necessary parties under Rule 19(a), and therefore joinder is required. Because the Court concludes that all of plaintiff’s claims against Rousseau are properly before the Court under Rule 18, and the remaining movants are properly joined in this litigation under Rule 19(a), the Court denies defendants’ motion. The Court notes that denial of defendants’ motion comports with the overarching consideration of the federal rules that favors joinder of parties.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court denies defendants exception to improper joinder.