United States District Court, S.D. New York
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
J. NATHAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Crane Co. ("Crane") moves to require joinder of
necessary parties under Rule 19. See Dkt. No. 7. For
the following reasons, the motion is denied.
October 3, 2017, 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,
and alleged that Mr. Grimes developed mesothelioma as a
result of exposure to Defendants' asbestos-containing
products. See Dkt. No. 8, Ex. A (State Action). That
action remains pending in New York state court. See
Dkt. No. 9 (Crane Memo) at 2. The second action—the
instant action—was filed against four other defendants,
including Crane. See Dkt. No. 8, Ex. B (Complaint).
Plaintiffs similarly alleged that Mr. Grimes developed
mesothelioma as a result of exposure to Defendants'
asbestos-containing products. See Id. ¶ 3. On
October 30, 2017, Defendants Foster Wheeler LLC and General
Electric Company removed that case to federal court. Dkt. No.
moves for joinder of necessary parties under Rule 19 and
requests that the Court require Plaintiffs to join in this
action all defendants that Plaintiffs sued in the parallel
state court action. See Dkt. No. 7; Crane Memo at 1.
Crane argues that this lawsuit and the pending state court
action "request the same relief, under substantially the
same legal theories, for the same injuries, arising from the
same alleged exposure to asbestos, " and it contends
that Plaintiffs pursued two lawsuits to segregate defendants
like Crane who could remove the case to federal court from
those who could not. Crane Memo at 1-2. Plaintiffs admit to
segregating defendants to avoid the possibility of removal,
but they emphasize that joinder is still not appropriate.
See Dkt. No. 18 (PI. Memo) at 3.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a), a person who is
subject to service of process and whose joinder will not
deprive the court of subject-matter jurisdiction must be
joined if either (1) "in that person's absence, the
court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties,
" or (2) "that person claims an interest relating
to the subject of the action and is so situated that
disposing of the action in the person's absence may . . .
impair or impede the person's ability to protect the
interest, " or may "leave an existing party subject
to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or
otherwise inconsistent obligations because of the
interest."Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 19(a)(1). "[W]hile
courts in different forums may certainly reach different
results, '[inconsistent obligations are not, however, the
same as inconsistent adjudications or results.'"
Nelligan v. Cmty. Gen. Hosp., 240 F.R.D. 123, 125
(S.D.N.Y. 2007) (second alteration in original) (quoting
Delgado v. Plaza Las Ams., 139 F.3d 1, 3 (1st Cir.
1998)). Inconsistent obligations exist only "when a
party is unable to comply with one court's order without
breaching another court's order concerning the same
incident." Id. (quoting Delgado, 139
F.3d at 3).
Risk of Increased Obligation
contends that joinder of the state court defendants is
necessary because if they are absent from this action, Crane
will, if found to be at fault, incur greater liability than
it would if those defendants had been joined. See
Crane Memo at 4-7. Crane insists that joinder under Rule 14
is an inadequate solution. See id, at 8-10.
Plaintiffs dispute that contention, and they emphasize that
Crane could pursue a subsequent contribution action against
any of the state court defendants, if necessary. See
PI. Memo at 4-8. Plaintiffs also emphasize that it is
unnecessary to name every joint tortfeasor in one action.
See Id. at 5.
Plaintiffs note, "it is not necessary for all joint
torfeasors to be named as defendants in a single
lawsuit." Temple v. Synthes Corp., Ltd., 498
U.S. 5, 7 (1990) (per curiam); see also Allen v.
Devine, 670 F.Supp.2d 164, 169 (E.D.N.Y. 2009)
(concluding that joint tortfeasors were not necessary parties
under Rule 19(a) "with respect to the plaintiffs
requests which may involve joint and several money
damages"); Nelligan, 240 F.R.D. at 125 ("A
long-standing principle of federal law is that a plaintiff
does not need to include all joint tortfeasors as defendants
in a single lawsuit."); Crowthers McCall Pattern,
Inc. v. Lewis, 129 B.R. 992, 1003 (S.D.N.Y. 1991)
("[J]oint tortfeasors are not necessary parties since
their liability is both joint and several.").
case similar to this one, In re Brooklyn Navy Yard
Asbestos Litigation, 971 F.2d 831 (2d Cir. 1992),
thousands of individuals brought suit alleging that they had
been exposed to asbestos while working at the Brooklyn Navy
Yard. See Id. at 835. The case proceeded to trial,
and the jury rendered 52 verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs.
Id. at 836. The jury attributed shares of
responsibility to some tortfeasors, like nondisverse
tortfeasors, that were not parties to the action. See
Id. at 844. The district court gave the parties
"wide latitude to introduce evidence to establish who
substantially contributed to the alleged injuries, allowing
the defendants to argue that the damages were caused at least
in part, if not entirely, by other manufacturers not present
at trial." Id. at 844-45 (internal quotation
marks omitted). The district court then included on the
verdict sheets "all possible asbestos-supplying
tortfeasors, in keeping with the evidence introduced and with
New York practice." Id. at 845. Once the jury
had completed the verdict sheets, the district court
reallocated the shares of fault attributed to bankrupts and
nonparties to the non-settling defendants. Id. The
Second Circuit approved of that process, reasoning that New
York law "does not by its terms allow further reductions
for the fault of bankrupts and nonparties." Id.
The Second Circuit noted that "[h]olding non-settling
defendants jointly and severally liable for the share of
responsibility attributed to bankrupts and nonparties works
some unfairness to the defendants who are thus held
accountable for more than their fair share of fault, "
but explained that New York law "does not provide any
basis for deviating in this situation from the traditional
rule of joint and several liability." Id. It
also observed that non-settling defendants would "not
necessarily . . . bear the entire brunt of the
reallocation" of fault: "[N]on-settling defendants
who pay more than their equitable share retain the right to
pursue reimbursement from bankrupt or absent joint
tortfeasors." Id.; see also Crowthers McCall
Pattern, Inc., 129 B.R. at 1003 ("A tortfeasor,
if found liable, can seek contribution from a joint
well-established law, therefore, Plaintiffs "d[id] not
need to include all joint tortfeasors as defendants in a
single lawsuit." Nelligan, 240 F.R.D. at 125.
If Crane, like the non-settling defendants in Brooklyn
Navy Yard, is required to pay more than its equitable
share, it has the right to pursue reimbursement from absent
joint tortfeasors. See N.Y.C.P.L.R. §§
insists, however, that maritime law applies to this action
and that, under maritime law, "fault must be allocated
among the parties at trial and settling parties, " Crane
Memo at 5, such that "denying joinder of the parties . .
. will almost certainly result in a gross
'over-allocation' of responsibility to Crane Co.
should it be found at fault, " id. at 6. The
Court notes that federal courts applied New York state law in
Brooklyn Navy Yard. See, e.g., Brooklyn Navy Yard,
971 F.2d at 845-46. However, the Court need not decide at
this stage whether New York law or maritime law governs this
action. First, it is not clear that, if maritime law applied,
Crane would be unable to pursue contribution actions against
the state defendants or that this Court would be unable to
permit a jury to apportion fault among non-party entities.
Crane cites to only one, non-binding case that expresses
doubt "whether federal maritime principles permit a
court to enter a judgment reflecting a jury's
apportionment of damages among entities who were never named
defendants in the lawsuit before the court and from whom
plaintiff has received no compensation for his
injuries." Garlock Sealing Techs., LLC v.
Little, 620 S.E.2d 773, 777 (Va. 2005); see
Crane Memo at 6. Second, even if Crane were required to pay
more than its fair share, the proportionate share approach
recognizes that over-payment may occur in certain
circumstances, such as when a defendant is insolvent. See
McDermott, Inc. v. AmClyde, 511 U.S. 202, 221 (1994).
Thus thai Crane may be required to "pay more than its
apportioned share of liability, " id., if the
state court defendants are not joined does not render those
defendants necessary parties.
Public Interest in Avoiding Multiple, ...