United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. FRIEDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on plaintiffs' motion to join
additional plaintiffs [Dkt. No. 399]. Filed pursuant to the
Court's July 16, 2018 Minute Order, the plaintiffs'
motion seeks joinder of 114 additional plaintiffs who were
not previously named in the complaints and who have not
previously sought to join this case. The government has filed a
memorandum in opposition [Dkt. No. 401], and the plaintiffs
have filed a reply in support of their motion [Dkt. No. 402].
Having considered the parties' arguments, the relevant
legal authorities, and the entire record in this case, the
Court will deny the plaintiffs' motion without prejudice.
Court has previously considered whether to allow additional
plaintiffs to join this case and it permitted fifteen
prospective plaintiffs to do so. See Breen v. Chao,
Civil Action No. 05-0654 (PLF), 2018 WL 1509077 (D.D.C. Mar.
27, 2018). Plaintiffs now argue that the Court should
permit 114 additional plaintiffs to join the case because
“[t]he Court's March 27, 2018 Order permitting the
previous prospective plaintiffs into the case applies equally
to the[ ] additional prospective plaintiffs at issue in this
Motion.” See Pl. Mot. Join at 5.
assert that the 114 prospective plaintiffs' circumstances
match those of the fifteen individuals who were allowed to
join the case in March 2018: The prospective plaintiffs were
all formerly employed as flight service controllers, over the
age of 40 when they were adversely affected by the Federal
Aviation Administration's (“FAA”)
reduction-in-force (“RIF”), and “seek to
bring functionally identical claims under the [Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”)],
challenging the loss of their jobs resulting from the
RIF.” See Pl. Mot. Join at 10. According to
plaintiffs, the 114 individuals also vicariously exhausted
their administrative remedies, thereby meeting the condition
upon which the Court decided to admit the fifteen prospective
plaintiffs. See id. at 10-11; Breen v.
Chao, 2018 WL 1509077, at *6-11. In addition, the
plaintiffs argue that the 114 prospective plaintiffs'
claims relate back to the original complaint and - just as
the Court found in relation to the fifteen individuals
previously permitted to join - their claims therefore are not
time-barred by the statute of limitations. See Pl.
Mot. Join at 11; Breen v. Chao, 2018 WL 1509077, at
*9-11. For these reasons, plaintiffs contend that
“[t]hese additional prospective plaintiffs should . . .
be permitted to join the case on the same grounds applied to
the former prospective plaintiffs.” See Pl.
Mot. Join at 5. The question for the Court, therefore, is
whether the reasoning and decision set forth in the
Court's March 27, 2018 Opinion is a sufficient basis on
which to permit the 114 additional prospective plaintiffs to
join the case. The Court concludes that it is not.
Permissive Joinder Not Barred by Rule 20 or Rule 15
prior decision permitting fifteen prospective plaintiffs to
join this case, the Court determined that the plaintiffs met
“the basic legal standards that apply to a motion
seeking to amend a complaint to add a plaintiff” -
specifically, Rules 15 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. See Breen v. Chao, 2018 WL 1509077, at
*9-11. Here, the government does not argue against the
joinder under Rule 15 or Rule 20. And the Court sees no
reason why the rationale that substantiated its decision to
allow the fifteen prospective plaintiffs to join the case
would not also apply to these 114 prospective plaintiffs. The
government points to only one factor to distinguish between
the fifteen plaintiffs who were allowed to join the case in
March of 2018 and the 114 prospective plaintiffs now seeking
to join: when plaintiffs moved to join them.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
“[o]n motion or on its own, the court may at any time,
on just terms, add or drop a party.” See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. Under Rule 20, trial courts may allow the
joinder of plaintiffs to an action if the plaintiffs
“assert any right to relief . . . with respect to or
arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences” and if “any question
of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the
action.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(1). In
exercising this discretion, courts also assess the potential
for prejudice to any party or any undue delay. See
Alexander v. Edgewood Mgmt. Corp., 321 F.R.D. 460, 463
(D.D.C. 2017). Thus, the Court has discretion to permit the
prospective plaintiffs to join this case, so long as it does
so “on just terms, ” see Fed.R.Civ.P.
21, and in accordance with Rule 20 governing permissive
joinder. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 20; see also Alexander
v. Edgewood Mgmt. Corp., 321 F.R.D. at 462-63. Just as
it explained in its March 27, 2018 Opinion, the Court is not
aware of any reason why the prospective plaintiffs would fail
to meet the Rule 20 standard, see Breen v. Chao,
2018 WL 1509077, at *9, nor does the government articulate
any opposition under Rule 20.
joinder pursuant to Rule 21 is “not immune from the
statute of limitations.” See 7 Charles Alan
Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal
Practice & Procedure § 1688 (3d ed. 2018); see
also Griffin v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No.
93-2617 (PLF), 1996 WL 294280, at *1 n.1 (D.D.C. May 29,
1996) (explaining that the granting of a joinder motion
“does not resuscitate claims that are barred by the
statute of limitations.”). And futility is a ground on
which to deny a motion to join a plaintiff where the
prospective plaintiffs' claims would not survive a motion
to dismiss because of the statute of limitations. See
Fleck v. Cablevision VII, Inc., 799 F.Supp. 187, 190
(D.D.C. 1992); see also Hawkins v. Groot Indus.,
Inc., 210 F.R.D. 226, 229 (N.D. Ill. 2002).
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs when, for
statute of limitations purposes, an amended complaint relates
back to an earlier filed complaint. See Breen v.
Chao, 2018 WL 1509077, at *9. Although Rule 15 only
expressly deals with amendments that change “the party
. . . against whom a claim is asserted, ” usually the
defendant, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(C), the
Advisory Committee's notes make clear that the Rule
applies by analogy to amendments that add plaintiffs as well.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 advisory committee's note to
1966 amendment; see also Leachman v. Beech Aircraft
Corp., 694 F.2d 1301, 1308 (D.C. Cir. 1982). In order to
invoke the relation-back doctrine, Rule 15 requires two
things: (1) the new claim must arise from the same
“conduct, transaction, or occurrence” set forth
in the original pleading; and (2) the party against whom the
claim is asserted must have had sufficient notice of the
claim. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(C); Leachman v.
Beech Aircraft Corp., 694 F.2d at 1308-09. Such notice
must come “within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for
serving the summons and complaint.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
Court concluded in its March 2018 Opinion that the statute of
limitations did not bar the joinder of the fifteen
individuals because their claims related to the original
complaint, which the government did not dispute was timely
filed. See Breen v. Chao, 2018 WL 1509077, at *9-10.
Similarly, the Court does not see any reason why the relation
back doctrine would not apply equally to the 114 prospective
plaintiffs' claims. Just as with the admitted plaintiffs,
the instant 114 prospective plaintiffs seek to challenge, as
a violation of the ADEA, the loss of their jobs resulting
from the FAA's RIF - that is, the same employment
decision that serves as the basis for the current
plaintiffs' claims brought under the same statute.
See First Amended Complaint ¶ 1 [Dkt. No. 3];
Pl. Mot. Join at 10. The 114 prospective plaintiffs therefore
meet the “conduct, transaction or occurrence”
requirement, just as their previous counterparts did. See
Breen v. Chao, 2018 WL 1509077, at *9-10; see also
Estate of Doe v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 808 F.Supp.2d
1, 17 (D.D.C. 2011); Page v. Pension Benefit Guar.
Corp., 130 F.R.D. 510, 512 (D.D.C. 1990).
addition, the government had sufficient notice of the 114
prospective plaintiffs and their potential involvement in the
case - just as it had fair notice of the fifteen previous
individuals and their claims - because the original complaint
was instituted as a prospective class action. See Breen
v. Chao, 2018 WL 1509077, at *10; see also Fleck v.
Cablevision VII, Inc., 799 F.Supp. at 192. Like their
predecessors, the 114 prospective plaintiffs not only fit the
definition of the prospective class - which included
“approximately 834 of the FAA's 1, 770 current
Flight Service Controllers” - but also meet the
FAA's own class definition, which included “all
Flight Service Air Traffic Control Specialists employed by
the FAA who are over 40 years of age and adversely affected
by the FAA's decision to eliminate federal employment and
related benefits.” See Breen v. Chao, 2018 WL
1509077, at *10. The Court concludes, therefore, that the
joinder of the 114 prospective plaintiffs would not be
the Court find any reason why prejudice should proscribe the
addition of these 114 prospective plaintiffs when it did not
bar the joinder of the other plaintiffs. Rule 21 provides
that a court may allow a party to join “on just
terms.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. In its prior
Opinion, the Court concluded that the addition of the fifteen
individuals not only met that standard, but that allowing
them to resolve their disputes on the merits would serve the
interests of justice. See Breen v. Chao, 2018 WL
1509077, at *11; see also Alexander v. Edgewood Mgmt.
Corp., 321 F.R.D. at 462-63. In so deciding, the Court
determined that the government would suffer only minimal, if
any, prejudice, and that joinder would not create any undue
delays. See Breen v. Chao, 2018 WL 1509077, at *11.
the government argues that the joinder of 114 new plaintiffs
would cause further delay and “encourage more
potential plaintiffs to join, ” causing the government
undue prejudice. See Opp. at 6. Certainly, the
addition of 114 new plaintiffs would expand the potential
liability of the government. But there has been no
substantial change in the status of this matter since the
Court's previous Order that would substantiate new cause
for concern of prejudice. In the intervening months, the
parties have engaged in limited expert discovery, which is
still on-going; the addition of 114 plaintiffs would not
impact that progress. See February 15, 2019 Joint
Status Report [Dkt. No. 419]. Moreover, any unfair prejudice
to defendants may be mitigated or resolved by the Court.
See Breen v. Chao, 2018 WL 1509077, at *11.
Failure to Show “Good ...