Hohlbein v. Heritage Mutual Insurance Co.
106 F.R.D. 73 (1985)

Facts:

Four plaintiffs brought 12 claims (three each) against Heritage Mutual in a diversity suit. All were contacted and interviewed by Heritage, who made material misrepresentations of fact, withheld material information, and didn’t advise them of a probationary period.

(1) Norbert Hohlbein – VP of Sales
(2) Winston Howell – VP of Sales
(3) James R. Beckey – Claims Manager
(4) Edward White – Training and Educational Specialist

History:

  • Heritage moved pursuant to Rule 20(a) and Rule 21 to split the action into four separate lawsuits:
    • None of the claims arose from the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions and occurrences:
      • All were employed at different times, with the exception of Hohlbein and Howell, each had different positions, etc.
      • Except for two, the positions were all different too.
  • Plaintiffs’ response: Heritages treatment constituted an ongoing “course of conduct” and an “on-going policy of material misrepresentations and fraud.”

Issue:

Should these claims be severed?

Holding:

No. Motion denied.

Reasoning:

  • The court felt that the complaint arose out of the same series of transactions or occurrences, and implicated common questions of law or fact:
    • Everything happened within a 2 ½ year period.
    • Each plaintiff’s circumstances were sufficiently similar.
  • Also, any burden on the defendant for having a consolidated trial is far outweighed by the benefits.
  • Finally, the jury would not be confused by the consolidated trial.
  • Efficiency!