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U.S. District Court Examines FRCP 24(b)(1)(B) Permissive Intervention Standard

Theodore Barrett, et al., v. Lawrence McDonald MD, et al.
No. 14-742 (United States District Court for the District of Delaware, January 16, 2015)

by Richard J. Medoff, Law Clerk
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)

Available at: http://www.ded.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions/lps/2015/january/14-742.pdf

In Theodore Barrett, et al., v. Lawrence McDonald MD, et al., a case involving a Motion for Permissive Intervention filed in an ongoing 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware concluded that intervention was not warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(b)(1)(B). Thus, Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark denied the movant's Motion for Permissive Intervention.

By way of factual background, on May 9, 2014, Plaintiffs, a group of nine (9) inmates at Sussex Correctional Institution ("SCI"), filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the State of Delaware for New Castle County alleging various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Each claim stemmed from alleged sexual abuse by Defendant Lawrence McDonald and other members of SCI staff, during medical examinations of the Plaintiffs while Plaintiffs were inmates at SCI. On June 13, the Defendants removed the action to the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.

On July 31, 2014, Stanley Yelardy filed a Motion for Permissive Intervention, seeking to join the suit. Mr. Yelardy alleged that he had also been sexually abused by Mr. McDonald during medical examinations; however, at a different time, and while Mr. McDonald was working at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("JTVCC"). The claim Mr. Yelardy sought to press was against four (4) of the Defendants in the main action, but his motion also added four (4) new Defendants. Mr. Yelardy's motion was opposed by the Defendants while the Plaintiffs took no position.

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(b)(1)(B), the court may permit anyone to intervene who "has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact." As the name suggests, whether or not to grant permissive intervention under Rule 24(b) is within the discretion of the district court.

To establish that intervention is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(b), "the intervener must demonstrate: (1) an independent basis for subject matter jurisdiction, (2) a timely motion, and (3) a claim or defense that has a common question of law or fact with the primary litigation." See In re Linerboard Antitrust Litig., 333 F. Supp. 2d 333, 338-39 (E.D. Pa. 2004).

The court found the first two (2) requirements of a warranted intervention under Rule 24(b) were satisfied, noting that the court had subject matter of jurisdiction over Yelardy's § 1983 claim and that his motion was timely; however, the court concluded that the third requirement was not.

While the court noted that there were "some" common questions of law and fact, like the type of abuse alleged against McDonald, there were "many distinct facts" that set Yelardy's claims apart from the Plaintiffs. First, and “most prominently,” the court noted that all of the alleged acts occurred at JTVCC, while all of the acts that Plaintiffs alleged occurred at SCI.

Second, the court stated that while Yelardy did allege claims against four (4) Defendants in the main action, it was unclear how those overlapping Defendants were even involved with JTVCC, as the Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleged that they were employed by SCI at the time.

Considering that "each act of abuse against each inmate is a separate act, requiring its own proof," the court stated that the "ultimate issue of liability will turn on different evidence for the Defendants who worked at SCI and those who worked at JTVCC." Under those circumstances, the court concluded that the "appropriate exercise of its discretion" was to deny Mr. Yelardy's Motion for Permissive Intervention.


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