United States District Court, D. Idaho
JOHN DOE XX, JOHN DOE XXI, JOHN DOE XXII, SHANE JULIAN, and RILEY GILROY, Plaintiffs,
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill Chief Judge.
Court has before it Defendants' Motion to Sever (Dkt.
17). For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant
the motion in part and deny it in part.
filed this action in May 2017. On September 26, 2017, the
parties entered a stipulation to add three additional
Plaintiffs. Each Plaintiff alleges that BSA and the Church
Defendants made material misrepresentations about the safety
of Scouting, upon which Plaintiffs relied in deciding to
participate in Boy Scouts. Am. Compl. Dkt. 28. As a
result of the alleged misrepresentations, Plaintiffs claim
they suffered serious physical, mental, and emotional
injuries due to abuse they suffered at the hands of their
Scoutmasters. Id. Doe XX, Doe XXIII, and Doe XXIV
allege that Lawrence Libey sexually abused them between
1970-1972, when they were members of Scout Troop 156.
Id. These Plaintiffs bring claims for constructive
and actual fraud against Defendant BSA. Doe XXI and Doe XXII
allege that Doug Bowen sexually abused them between 1974-75
when they were members of Troop 20, sponsored by the Boise
Fifth Ward of the LDS Church. Id. Shane Julien and
Riley Gilroy allege that James Schmidt sexually abused them
between 1982-83 when they participated in a Troop sponsored
by the Caldwell Fourth Ward of the LDS Church. Id.
Doe XXV alleges that James Schmidt sexually abused him in
1980 when he participated in Troop 139, sponsored by the
Nampa Third Ward of the LDS Church. Id. These
Plaintiffs bring claims for constructive and actual fraud
against all Defendants.
Church Defendants filed a Motion to Sever on June 21, 2017,
arguing that Plaintiffs have impermissibly joined their
claims into one lawsuit. (Dkt. 17). BSA joined that Motion.
(Dkt. 19). Defendants argue that the individual
Plaintiffs' claims do not arise out of the same
transaction or occurrence, and thus are improperly joined.
Defendants, however, do not ask that Plaintiffs' claims
be severed entirely. Rather, Defendants ask that
Plaintiffs' claims only be severed for purposes of trial.
Def.'s Reply at 3, Dkt. 23. Thus, at issue is
whether any of the eight individual Plaintiffs should be
allowed to try their claims together, or whether each
Plaintiff should be required to proceed separately.
Court previously confronted this issue in a related case.
See Mem. Decision and Order, Doe I v. BSA,
Case No. 1:13-cv-00275-BLW, Dkt. 37 (“Doe I
Order”). There, the Court ordered that twelve of the
sixteen plaintiffs' claims be severed for the purposes of
trial, but that all the claims remain joined during the
pre-trial phase. (Doe I, Dkt. 37). The Court allowed
four of the plaintiffs' claims to remain joined for
trial, where the four plaintiffs were members of the same
scout troop, and were abused by the same person on the same
occasion. Here, Defendants seek an order severing every
Plaintiff's claims for trial. Def.'s Reply
at 3, Dkt. 23. Plaintiffs contest Defendants' claim they
will face unfair prejudice should every Plaintiff be allowed
to try their cases together, but concede that severance may
be necessary to avoid inconsistent rulings between this case
and Doe I. Pl.'s Resp. at 19, Dkt. 22.
However, should the Court order Plaintiffs' claims
severed for trial, they ask that Plaintiffs who were in the
same Scout troop, and were abused by the same leader during
the same time period, be allowed to try their claims
together. Id. at 21.
together in one action, plaintiffs must meet two specific
requirements: (1) the right to relief asserted by each
plaintiff must arise out of or relate to the same transaction
or occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and
(2) a question of law or fact common to all parties must
arise in the action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a). Generally, this
joinder rule is to be construed liberally in order to promote
trial convenience and to prevent multiple disputes.
League to Save Lake Tahoe v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning
Agency, 558 F.2d 914, 917 (9th Cir. 1977). As such, the
decision to sever a claim under Rule 21 is in the Court's
broad discretion. “If the test for permissive joinder
is not satisfied, a court, in its discretion, may sever the
misjoined parties, so long as no substantial right will be
prejudiced by the severance.” Coughlin v.
Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1350 (9th Cir.1997); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 21 (allowing court to sever a claim
against any party). Further, even if parties and claims have
been properly joined, a court may, in its discretion, sever
claims to “comport with principles of fundamental
fairness” or avoid prejudice to the parties or jury
confusion. Coleman v. Quaker Oats Co., 232 F.3d
1271, 1296 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Desert Empire Bank v.
Ins. Co. of N. Am., 623 F.2d 1371, 1375 (9th Cir. 1980)
(finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion
when it severed certain plaintiff's claims without
finding improper joinder)).
The Same-Transaction Requirement
Court first addresses whether Plaintiffs' claims meet the
basic requirements for joinder. Defendants do not contest
that Plaintiffs have met the second requirement, that there
be a common question of law or fact arising in each claim.
Instead, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims do not
arise out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences. In analyzing the
same-transaction prong, the Ninth Circuit instructs that
courts should look to whether there is “similarity in
the factual background” of the claims.
Coughlin, 130 F.3d at 1350. This Court has
previously adopted a test articulated by the Eighth Circuit
to determine whether claims arise from a similar factual
background, by looking at whether the events entitling a
person to institute legal action are “logically
related.” See Doe I Order at 7-8 (citing
Mosley v. General Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330, 1333
(8th Cir. 1974). Claims may arise from the same transaction
or occurrence where they arise from a “systematic
pattern” of such events. Coughlin, 130 F.3d at
Doe I, the Court found that “the plaintiffs
who joined the same scout troop and were later abused on the
same night, in the same tent, by the same person, satisfy the
same-transaction-or-occurrence requirement.” Doe
I Order at 8. The Court further found that the claims of
the twelve additional plaintiffs were logically related and
consisted of a common series of occurrences, even though they
did not allege abuse by the same person on the same occasion.
Id. The logical relationship stemmed from the
allegations by each plaintiff that BSA and the Church
defendants “knew sex abuse occurred in scouting and
that both entities chose not to disclose this danger to
scouts or their parents.” Id. And the Court
found further connections between plaintiffs' claims due
to the similarity in their injuries, their relationships to
defendants, and the misrepresentations they alleged
defendants made. Id. (finding that all the
plaintiffs “were abused by scout leaders . . . and all
had joined scout troops and read the scouting handbook
telling them, in essence, to trust scout leaders.”).
Defendants argue that the only connections between
Plaintiffs' claims are that all Plaintiffs “were
involved in Scouting during the time of their abuse and their
abuse occurred in Idaho.” Def.'s Reply at
6 (internal quotations omitted). This statement ignores the
fact that many of the same connections the Court found in
Doe I exist between the claims here. Plaintiffs here
each allege that BSA and the Church Defendants knew sex abuse
occurred in Scouting generally and that they knew that the
perpetrators who abused the Plaintiffs had previously abused
other boys; that Defendants chose not to disclose these facts
to the scouts or their parents; that Defendants instead
represented that scouting was safe and that scouts should
trust their scout leaders; and that Plaintiffs were abused by
scout leaders, had joined scout troops, and had relied on
Defendants' alleged misrepresentations in deciding to
join. See Am. Compl. Dkt. 28. These ...