United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. HOOD SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court upon the joint stipulation of
dismissal between Plaintiff Jerel Clanney and Defendant
Liberty Life Insurance Company of Boston. [DE 6]. These
parties stipulate that the benefits offered by Defendant
Toyota Motor Engineering North America, Inc., Group
Disability Income Policy (“Toyota Plan” or
“Toyota Policy”) are insured by Liberty pursuant
to the LTD policy and, as such, Liberty will satisfy any
judgment rendered in this action. [Id. at 1, Pg ID
24]. As a result, the parties seek to dismiss the Toyota
Policy without prejudice. [Id. at 1-2, Pg ID 24-25].
Here, because dismissal of a single party is appropriate
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21, the Court construes
the joint stipulation as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule
21. Accordingly, the parties' motion [DE 6] is
GRANTED and the claims against the Defendant
Toyota Policy are DISMISSED WITHOUT
November 21, 2018, Jerel Clanney filed a complaint under the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”) asserting a claim for group disability
benefits available under a long-term disability insurance
policy provided for employees of Toyota Motor Engineering
Company. Liberty executed a wavier of the service of summons
that was filed on December 27, 2018, [DE 5] and has not
answered the complaint.
Clanney and Liberty have filed a joint stipulation of
dismissal, seeking to dismiss the Toyota Policy, which was
named as a co-defendant in this action. [DE 6]. The Toyota
Policy has not answered or appeared in this action.
parties do not cite any rule of civil procedure that provides
legal authority justifying dismissal. [See DE 6].
Normally, stipulations of dismissal are filed to dismiss an
action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a). But, as
this Court has previously explained, under Sixth Circuit
precedent Rule 41(a) only allows dismissal of an entire
action, not some of the defendants. United States ex rel.
Doe v. Preferred Care, Inc., 326 F.R.D. 462, 464 (E.D.
Ky. 2018) (citing Philip Carey Manufacturing Company v.
Taylor, 286 F.2d 782, 785 (6th Cir. 1961)). Admittedly,
while some federal circuits disagree with the Sixth
Circuit's interpretation of Rule 41(a), this Court is
bound by Sixth Circuit precedent. See Preferred
Care, 326 F.R.D. at 464; see, e.g., Van
Leeuwen v. Bank of Am., N.A., 304 F.R.D. 691, 693-94 (D.
Utah 2015) (discussing the circuit split and citing cases).
matter. The Court construes filings “by their
substantive content and not by their labels, ” and, as
such, the Court will construe the current joint stipulation
of dismissal as a motion to drop a party under Rule 21.
See Coleman v. Ohio State Univ. Med. Ctr., No.
2:11-cv-0049, 2011 WL 3273531, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 1,
may be used for the dismissal of a single defendant. See
Taylor, 286 F.2d at 785 (“we think that [Rule 21]
is the one under which any action to eliminate” a
single defendant should be taken); see also Letherer v.
Alger Grp., LLC, 328 F.3d 262, 266 (6th Cir. 2003),
overruled on other grounds by Blackburn v. Oaktree
Capital Mgmt., LLC, 511 F.3d 633, 636 (6th Cir. 2008);
Wilkerson v. Brakebill, No. 3:15-CV-435-TAV-CCS,
2017 WL 401212 (E.D. Tenn. Jan. 30, 2017) (“Rule 21 is
the more appropriate rule”); Lester v. Wow Car Co.,
Ltd., No. 2:11-cv-850, 2012 WL 1758019, at *2 n.2 (S.D.
Ohio May 16, 2012) (“the Sixth Circuit has suggested
that dismissal of an individual party, as opposed to an
entire action, is properly conducted pursuant to Rule 21, not
Rule 41”); Warfel v. Chase Bank USA,
N.A., No. 2:11-cv-699, 2012 WL 441135, at *2 (S.D. Ohio
Feb. 10, 2012). Thus, the Court construes the parties'
joint stipulation of dismissal as a Motion to dismiss a
single party under Rule 21.
motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just
terms, add or drop a party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. The rule
applies where “no relief is demanded from one or more
of the parties joined as defendants.”
Letherer, 328 F.3d at 267. Normally, under the rule,
Courts must consider prejudice to the nonmoving party.
See Wilkerson, 2017 WL 401212, at *2; Arnold v.
Heyns, No. 13-14137, 2015 WL 1131767, at *4 (E.D. Mich.
Mar. 11, 2015). The inquiry overlaps with Rule 41 standards
“as guidance in evaluating potential prejudice to the
non-movant.” Wilkerson, 2017 WL 401212, at *2.
Courts determine whether the nonmoving party would suffer
“plain legal prejudice” and consider: (1)
defendant's effort and expense of preparation for trial;
(2) excessive delay and lack of diligence on plaintiff's
part in prosecuting the case; (3) insufficient explanation
for the need for dismissal; and (4) whether a motion for
summary judgment is pending.” Grover v. Eli Lily
& Co., 33 F.3d 716, 718 (6th Cir. 1994). The Court
will consider each factor in turn below.
the Defendant Toyota Policy has likely expended very little
effort or expense, if any, in preparation for trial in this
action. This action is in its infancy. In fact, neither of
the Defendants have answered and no scheduling order has been
entered in this action. As a result, the Defendant Toyota
Policy has likely expended few resources defending this
action and the first factor indicates that the Toyota Policy
will suffer no prejudice by dismissal under Rule 21.
there is no indication of delay or a lack due diligence on
the Plaintiff's part in prosecuting this matter. This
action was filed on November 21, 2018, and the Plaintiff has
requested and received a waiver of service from Liberty. [DE
5]. As a result, it appears that the Plaintiff is diligently
prosecuting this action and that the parties have begun
communicating about this action in good faith. As such, the
second factor indicates that the Toyota Policy will suffer no
prejudice by dismissal.
Clanney and Liberty have notified that Court that Liberty
will satisfy any judgment rendered in this action for
Clanney's ERISA claims and “will not raise
procedural issues relating to the exclusion of the plan as
defendant for purposes of its defenses.” [DE 6 at 1, Pg
ID 25]. As a result, there is no need to require the Toyota
Plan to be named as a defendant and defend in this action,
since the parties agree that the Toyota Policy is not
necessary for the adjudication of the claims in this action.
As such, the parties have provided a sufficient justification
for dismissal and third factor indicates that the Toyota
Policy will not be prejudiced by dismissal.
and finally, there is no pending motion for summary judgment
pending in this action, which also weighs in favor of
dismissal. In fact, the Toyota Policy has not appeared and
there have ...