You just filed your lawsuit in Miami court, albeit after carefully piecing together the interweaving claims of several clients against several defendants. Things get complicated in business disputes. Everything was done for efficiency sake, and you were able to save your clients the cost of several filing fees. Then you receive a motion to sever for misjoinder. What is a motion to sever for misjoinder? We explain below. However, if you have any further questions about misjoinder, a motion to sever, or a motion to bifurcate, please contact Bernhard Law Firm at abernhard@bernhardlawfirm, 786-871-3349, www.bernhardlawfirm.com
Under Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.250(a) and 1.270(b), any claim against any party may be severed and proceeded with separately, where: (i) the injuries are separate and occur at different times; (ii) the same facts are not necessary to prove each cause of action; (iii) the connections between the parties and claims are tenuous; (iv) there are multiple plaintiffs with distinct causes of action on distinct injuries; (v) the plaintiffs cannot all properly obtain a joint judgment; (vi) in furtherance of convenience; or (vi) to avoid prejudice. Bacardi v. Lindzon, 845 So. 2d 33, 40 (Fla. 2002) (ordering that certain claims be brought as separate lawsuit in separate forum, for misjoinder); Roseman v. Town Square Ass’n, Inc., 810 So. 2d 516, 520 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001) (holding severance of claims is generally proper where they present distinct claims and issues, based on distinct contracts and distinct damages); Bass Orlando Lee Road, Inc. v. Lund, 702 So. 2d 250, 251 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997) (reversing denial of severance where injuries were separate and caused years apart).
Where any causes of action meet any of the above qualities, their inclusion in the same complaint creates a misjoinder of claims and parties, requiring severance of actions. Id.; Tamiami Trail Tours, Inc. v. Cotton, 463 So. 2d 1126, 1128 (Fla. 1985) (holding action by cab operator and cab driver against terminal for business interference and battery must be severed as misjoinder of separate claims). Thus, as held in St. Tropez II, LLC v. Adlerov, multiple plaintiffs cannot maintain a joint action against a real estate developer on a pre-construction condominium for breach of their agreements and other claims, where various counts apply only as to some plaintiffs and not to others. 50 So. 3d 40, 42 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010) (reversing where trial court failed to sever actions of different claimants on developer, as with separate and independent causes of action, the claimants could not properly obtain a joint judgment). An order granting a motion to sever is not an appealable order. Rodrigues v. FMC Corp., 416 So. 2d 508, 508 (Fla. 5th DCA 1982) (holding order on motion to sever not appealable).
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For more cases supporting a motion to sever or a motion to bifurcate for misjoinder, see St. Tropez II, LLC v. Adlerov, 50 So. 3d 40, 42 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010) (reversing where trial court failed to sever actions of different claimants on developer, as with separate and independent causes of action, the claimants could not properly obtain a joint judgment); Clark v. Bluewater Key RV Ownership Park Property Owners Ass’n, Inc., 226 So. 3d 276, 281 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017) (aff’ing severance of association’s equitable claims from owners’ damages claims); Crescenzo v. Marshall, 199 So. 3d 353, 356–57 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016) (holding property owner could not bring six quiet title actions in single lawsuit, as facts necessary to each claim were different, making them separate actions not amendable to joinder); E.A.W. v. Orlando Regional Med. Ctr., Inc., 424 So. 2d 189, 190 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983) (aff’ing severance of two malpractice causes of action against two hospitals filed in single complaint, where injuries were separate).
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To see if you suffer from misjoinder, compare the causes of action of each plaintiff against each defendant. Does the comparison show that the complaint meets any of the qualities requiring severance under Florida law? If so, the defendants may require severance under Florida law. Bacardi at 40; Roseman at 520; Lund at 251; Adlerov at 42; Clark at 281; Crescenzo at 356–57; E.A.W. at 190.