Joinder Of Parties
For two or more persons to join together as coplaintiffs or codefendants in a lawsuit, they generally must share similar rights or liabilities. At common law a person could not be added as a plaintiff unless that person, jointly with the other plaintiffs, was entitled to the whole recovery. A person could not be added as a defendant unless that person, jointly with the other defendants, was liable for the entire demand. To be more efficient, reduce costs, and reduce litigation, the modern PRACTICE OF LAW does not proceed on the same principles.
Permissive Joinder According to modern law, a person who has no material interest in the subject of the litigation or in the relief demanded is not a proper party and may not be part of the legal action. A proper party is one who may be joined in the action but whose failure to do so does not prevent the court from hearing the case and settling the controversy. A proper party may be added to a lawsuit through a process called permissive joinder.
The statutes that govern permissive joinder generally provide that plaintiffs may unite in one action if they claim a right to relief for injuries arising from the same occurrence or transaction. Likewise, persons may join as defendants in an action if assertions made against them claim a right to relief for damages emerging from the same transaction or occurrence.
Compulsory Joinder If a court is being asked to decide the rights of a person who is not named as a party to the lawsuit, that party must be joined in the lawsuit or else the court may not hear the case. Such persons are deemed indispensable or necessary parties, and they may be added as parties to the lawsuit through a process termed compulsory joinder. For reasons of EQUITY and convenience, it is often best for the court not to proceed if an indispensable party is absent and cannot be joined. In some circumstances, however, a court may still hear a matter if an indispensable party is absent, but its judgment can affect only the interests of the parties before it.
To determine whether a person is an indispensable party, the court must carefully examine the facts of the case, the relief sought, and the nature and extent of the absent person's interest in the controversy raised in the lawsuit. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and many state rules give courts flexible guidelines for this determination. These rules provide that the court should look to various pragmatic factors and determine whether it is better to dismiss the action owing to the absence of a party, or to proceed without that party. Specifically, the court should consider whether complete relief could still be accorded the parties who are present, whether the absence of the particular party impairs that party's ability to protect an interest, or whether the absence will leave a party that is present subject to a substantial risk of incurring multiple obligations. If the court decides, based on principles of equity and good conscience, that it is best to dismiss the action rather than hear it without the absent party joining the lawsuit, then the absent party is an indispensable party and the case is said to be dismissed for nonjoinder. For example, if one party to a contract asks the court to determine his rights under the contract, and the other party to the contract is absent and cannot be joined, then the court will refuse to hear the case because the other party is indispensable to determining rights under the contract.