Defendant’s Joinder Denied; Parallel Suits Allowed in Federal and State Court United States District Court, S.D.N.Y, June 21, 2018

NEW YORK — On October 3, 2017, the plaintiffs filed two lawsuits in New York state court against two different groups of defendants. One lawsuit was filed against 83 defendants, not including Crane Co. (Crane), alleging that John Grimes developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to defendants’ asbestos-containing products. At present, that matter remains pending in state court. The second action—the instant action—was filed against four other defendants, including Crane. The plaintiffs similarly alleged that Mr. Grimes developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to defendants’ asbestos-containing products. On October 30, 2017, defendants Foster Wheeler LLC and General Electric Company, two of the four defendants in the instant action, removed the case to federal court.

Crane moved for joinder of the necessary parties under Rule 19 and requested that the court require the plaintiffs to join in the action all defendants that they sued in the parallel state court action. Crane argued that the parallel suits “request the same relief, under substantially the same legal theories, for the same injuries, arising from the same alleged exposure to asbestos.” They further argued that the plaintiffs pursued the two lawsuits to segregate defendants like Crane who could remove the case to federal court from those who could not. The plaintiffs admit to this segregation to avoid the possibility of removal, but contended that joinder was not appropriate.

The court stated that “under well-established law… the plaintiffs did not need to include all joint tortfeasors as defendants in a single lawsuit.” If Crane is required to pay more than its equitable share, it has the right to pursue reimbursement from absent joint tortfeasors. The court further declined to accept Crane’s contention that “joinder is appropriate to protect the public interest in avoiding duplicative litigation;” holding that “Rule 19 does not direct the court to consider the ‘public interest’ or the risk of multiple lawsuits—as opposed to multiple obligations—when deciding whether a party is required to be joined as a party to an action.” Accordingly, that joinder of the state court defendants may be efficient does not make those defendants necessary parties.

The motion for joinder was denied.

Read the full case decision here.

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