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Augusta National, Inc. v. Green Jacket Auctions, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

March 16, 2018

AUGUSTA NATIONAL, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
GREEN JACKET AUCTIONS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          J. RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's "Motion to Amend the Complaint to Add Greg J. Waunford-Brown as a Party-Defendant and Dismiss Claims to the King Green Jacket." (Doc. 64.) As the title suggests, Plaintiff requests the Court (1) add Greg J. Waunford-Brown as a party-defendant and (2) dismiss all claims related to the King Green Jacket (the "King Jacket"). Plaintiff wants to add Mr. Waunford-Brown because Mr. Waunford-Brown is the consignor of the Nelson Green Jacket (the "Nelson Jacket"). Plaintiff wants to dismiss all claims related to the King Jacket because the consignor of the King Jacket has withdrawn the jacket from Defendant's auction and wishes to engage in private arbitration with Plaintiff. Upon consideration, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.

         I. MOTION TO ADD Mr. WAUNFORD-BROWN

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2) governs the permissive joinder of defendants to a lawsuit:

         Persons-as well as a vessel, cargo, or other property subject to admiralty process in rem-may be joined in one action as defendants if:

(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and
(B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a) (2) (A)-(B) . In the Eleventh Circuit, "joinder is 'strongly encouraged' and the rules are construed generously "toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties.'" Vanover v. NCO Fin. Servs., Inc., 857 F.3d 833, 839 (11th Cir. 2017) (quoting United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724 (1966)). Additionally, "district courts have 'broad discretion to join parties or not and that decision will not be overturned as long as it falls within the district court's range of choices.'" Id. (quoting Swan v. Ray, 293 F.3d 1252, 1253 (11th Cir. 2002)).

         The operative complaint in this case states that the present action is, among other things, "an action for trover, and related relief, seeking the return of property stolen from Plaintiff's premises at 2604 Washington Road, Augusta, Georgia by third parties, which property is now in the possession of Defendant as a consignee or other agent." (Doc. 31, ¶ 7.) The Georgia statute which "'embodies the common law action of trover'" is O.C.G.A. § 51-10-1. Levenson v. Word, 668 S.E.2d 763, 765 (Ga.Ct.App. 2008) (quoting Grant v. Newsome, 411 S.E.2d 796 (Ga. 1991)). O.C.G.A. § 51-10-1 states that "the owner of personalty is entitled to its possession. Any deprivation of such possession is a tort for which an action lies."

         Plaintiff desires to add Mr. Waunford-Brown "to resolve the issue of the right to title and possession of the [Nelson Jacket]." (Doc. 64, at 1.) Plaintiff claims that through the discovery process it has "identified [Mr. Waunford-Brown] as the consignor who currently claims ownership of the [Nelson Jacket]." (IdJ It also alleges that "Mr. Waunford-Brown procured the stolen [Nelson Jacket] from Defendant in 2012 in a private sale." (Id.)

         The Court finds that Plaintiff's addition of Mr. Waunford-Brown complies with both requirements of Rule 20(a)(2). First, Plaintiff asserts a right to relief against Mr. Waunford-Brown that "arises out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences." Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2)(A). The most important question with respect to Plaintiff's claims to the Nelson Jacket is who owns the Nelson Jacket. Defendant refuses to concede that Plaintiff owns the Nelson Jacket because it wants to auction the Nelson Jacket, and Mr. Waunford-Brown consigned the Nelson Jacket to Defendant to put up for auction. Thus, the right to relief arises out of the same transaction or occurrence in that it arises out of the attempted sale of the Nelson Jacket by Mr. Waunford-Brown through Defendant. Second, multiple "question[s] of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2)(B). Defendant's proper possession of the Nelson Jacket as consignee depends, at least in part, upon Mr. Waunford-Brown's proper possession as consignor. Therefore, both Defendant and Mr. Waunford-Brown will have to litigate a common question of law and fact. Accordingly, Rule 20 allows Plaintiff to add Mr. Waunford-Brown to the present action.

         II. MOTION TO DISMISS KING JACKET CLAIM

         Plaintiff's motion also "seeks to dismiss the claims to the [King Jacket] from this lawsuit." (Doc. 64, at 3.) Plaintiff seeks a voluntary dismissal of this claim without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41. Alternatively, Plaintiff seeks to amend its complaint to exclude the claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.

         1. ...


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