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Intervention Not Warranted Where Sole Basis Is Protection of Intervenorís Interest in Recovering Damages from Plaintiff on Unrelated Claims

Johnnie Parker v. John Moriarty & Assocs., et al.
(December 2, 2016) United States District Court for the District of Columbia

by Matthew J. McCloskey, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)

Available at: https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2015cv1506-63

In a recent opinion, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia denied a motion to intervene where the basis of the motion was the intervenor’s purported interest in insuring her eventual recovery from the Plaintiff on unrelated claims.

On December 18, 2014, Plaintiff was injured while excavating land at a construction site in Washington, D.C.  Specifically, Plaintiff was exposed to toxic chemicals that had leaked out of a damaged underground storage tank.  Plaintiff sued the general contractor overseeing the construction project as well as the sub-contractor with which Plaintiff was employed.  Plaintiff sought damages due to the Defendants’ alleged negligence in: (1) failing to warn him regarding the dangerous chemicals; and (2) failing to instruct him to wear adequate protective gear.  Plaintiff sought punitive damages from the general contractor.

Subsequently, Plaintiff’s mother (“Mother”) sought to intervene in the lawsuit.  Mother alleged that, on April 16, 2016, she suffered injuries in a physical altercation with Plaintiff at her home in Maryland.  Mother further alleged that, on June 13, 2016, Plaintiff obtained a court order requiring Mother to undergo a mental and physical evaluation.  As a result of those events, Mother alleged that she incurred emotional damages, medical bills, and lost wages.  Pertinently, Mother sought to intervene in this matter “in order to protect her interest in this case to provide restitution, putative and other relief deemed just by . . . [this Court] for [her] Intentional Personal Injury Torts and other torts.”

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied Mother’s motion to intervene.  As an initial matter, Mother lacked Article III standing because there was no connection between Plaintiff’s personal injury suffered on December 18, 2014 and the alleged harms of which Mother complained.  Furthermore, Mother had failed to demonstrate prudential standing.  “Prudential standing requirements . . . could be thought similar to the concept embodied in Rule 24 that a proposed intervenor must have an interest ‘relating to’ the property or transaction at issue in the litigation.”  Here, Mother’s purported interest in insuring her ability to recover damages suffered as a result of unrelated incidents was insufficient to demonstrate prudential standing. 

The Court also denied Mother’s motion for permissive intervention. The Court began by noting that “‘[i]t remains . . . an open question in this circuit whether Article III standing is required for permissive intervention.’” Defs. of Wildlife & Sierra Club v. Perciasepe, 714 F.3d 1317, 1327 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (quoting Safari Club Int’l v. Salazar, 704 F.3d 972, 980 (D.C. Cir. 2013)).  Nevertheless, even assuming that such standing was not required, Mother’s claims did not share any common questions of law or fact with Plaintiff’s claims in this lawsuit.  Permissive intervention was therefore improper.

Finally, the Court noted that it lacked jurisdiction over Mother’s claims.  Because: (1) this lawsuit was before the Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(3); (2) Mother sought to enter the case as a plaintiff; and (3) Mother’s claims did not arise out of the same transaction as Plaintiff’s claims, Mother was required to establish a basis for federal jurisdiction as to her claims.  Because Mother and Plaintiff were both citizens of the State of Maryland, Mother had failed to demonstrate a basis for diversity jurisdiction.  Accordingly, the Court was not permitted to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her claims.  For all of these reasons, the Court denied Mother’s motion to intervene.