United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD JUDGE
ORDER DENYING NON-PARTY'S MOTION FOR PERMISSIVE
TERRENCE G. BERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on non-party Felix Walls's pro
se Motion for Permissive Joinder pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 20(a)(1). (Dkt. 63). Plaintiff and Defendants
have each filed a response in opposition. (Dkts. 67, 69). The
Court notes that “[p]ro se plaintiffs enjoy the benefit
of a liberal construction of their pleadings and
filings.” Boswell v. Mayer, 169 F.3d 384, 387
(6th Cir. 1999). Additionally, the Court recognizes that
joinder of claims is “strongly encouraged” when
appropriate to further judicial economy and fairness.
United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S.
715, 724 (1966). For the reasons discussed below, Mr.
Walls's motion is nevertheless DENIED.
Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(1) provides as follows:
Rule 20. Permissive Joinder of Parties
(a) Persons Who May Join or Be Joined.
(1) Plaintiffs. Persons may join in one action as plaintiffs
(A) they assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in
the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same
transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or
(B) any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will
arise in the action.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(1). Before a Court can properly permit
joinder, a Plaintiff must satisfy both “prongs”
of Rule 20. Proctor v. Applegate, 661 F.Supp.2d 743,
779 (E.D. Mich. 2009).
bringing what appears to be a claim for appropriation of his
right of publicity, Mr. Walls states in conclusory fashion
that Defendants have “unlawfully exploited…
[his] likeness.” (Dkt. 63 at 2). To maintain a cause of
action for appropriation of the right of publicity under
Michigan law, Mr. Walls must prove that he has a pecuniary
interest in his identity and that a defendant exploited it.
Parks v. LaFace Records. 329 F.3d 437, 460 (6th Cir.
2003). In support of his claim, Mr. Walls alleges that he is
an “integral part” of Plaintiff's
“civil action” because her complaint cites to her
memoir The Hidden Hand, (Dkt. 1, Ex. A), and
The Hidden Hand “show cases
[sic] [Mr. Walls] as one of the main characters of
the book.” (Dkt. 63 at 1). However, Mr.
Walls alleges no facts showing he has a pecuniary interest in
his identity nor does he cite to any facts showing how
Defendants exploited this interest. In particular, although
Mr. Walls claims generally that his “likeness, story
persona, and character” have been “unlawfully
infringed, capitalized upon, and exploited for profit”
without his consent (Dkt. 63 at 2), he does not specifically
allege that his identity was used in the television show
Empire, which is the gravamen of Ms. Eggleston's
complaint. Rather, Mr. Walls argues that because he is
mentioned in Plaintiff's lawsuit and book, and because
Plaintiff and Defendants are now in litigation concerning her
book, he too must be a rightful party to this dispute.
Walls's argument fails to satisfy either prong of Rule
20. First, this litigation arises out of occurrences related
to Defendants' alleged misuse of Plaintiff
Eggleston's persona, as developed in her memoir The
Hidden Hand. (Dkt. 43). Plaintiff claims that the
Empire character “Cookie Lyon” is based
on her identity as portrayed in her book. Mr. Walls's
only factual allegation is that Plaintiff referenced him in
this book, an act that bears no relation to whether or not
Defendants misused Ms. Eggleston's persona. Moreover, the
Court has dismissed Plaintiff's right of publicity claim,
(Dkt. 61) because, like Mr. Walls, Ms. Eggleston failed to
show how any pecuniary interest was associated with her
identity. The only remaining claim in this lawsuit is
copyright infringement as it relates to Defendants'
alleged use of Ms. Eggleston's biographical persona. Mr.
Walls did not create the work at issue and has no copyright
claim relating to it. Even if the Court found that Mr.
Walls's unfounded right of publicity claim arose out of
the same occurrence that gave rise to this litigation, such a
claim by Mr. Walls would have no question of law or fact in
common with Plaintiff's copyright claim.
Mr. Walls fails to show how his right of publicity claim
arises out of the same occurrence that gave rise to this
litigation and how any question of law or fact common to all
plaintiffs will arise should the Court permit him to join it.
Pursuant to ...