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Joinder Of Additional Parties

Usually a plaintiff decides when, where, and whom she or he wants to sue. In some cases a plaintiff may wish to join, or add, other parties after the start of the lawsuit. Proper parties and necessary or indispensable parties may be added while the action is pending.

A proper party is anyone who may be a party in the lawsuit. The JOINDER, or addition, of a proper party in a pending lawsuit is entirely permissible. The court may allow the joinder of an additional party, but the lawsuit does not have to be dismissed if it does not. In some states anyone who has an interest in the subject of the controversy is a proper party in the lawsuit. Some courts encourage joinder of everyone who could be affected by the decision.

Under modern rules of procedure in many states and the federal courts, joinder is not encouraged to the point where a lawsuit becomes unwieldy or cluttered with unrelated parties and claims. Generally, joinder is approved where the claims of the persons sought to be joined arose out of the same transaction or event as the claims of the existing parties, so that all the claims may be settled by answering the same QUESTIONS OF LAW or fact. The decision to join additional parties is within the discretion of the court. Courts are careful not to exclude parties with an interest in a lawsuit because a failure to join those parties might lead to a series of lawsuits with inconsistent verdicts. That could ultimately leave a deserving plaintiff without a remedy or force a defendant to pay a certain claim more than once.

Whether a person is potentially necessary or indispensable to an action depends on the character and extent of that person's interest in the subject of the lawsuit. It is fair and equitable to require any person who has an interest that can be affected by the lawsuit to be joined as a party. A person whose interest may be affected by the outcome of the case is considered necessary, and such a person should be joined if possible. A person whose interest is sure to be affected by the outcome of the lawsuit is considered an indispensable party, and the case cannot proceed without this person. The case must be dismissed, for example, if a person cannot be joined because he or she is beyond the jurisdiction of the court. In deciding whether a person should be a party to a lawsuit, the courts carefully weigh the consequences of proceeding without the person and seek a remedy that will give relief to those who are actual parties without doing great harm to a necessary or indispensable party who is missing.

Federal courts abandoned this analysis and terminology relating to necessary and indispensable parties in 1966. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure focus on factors affecting the overall balance of fairness to the parties and potential parties involved rather than on categories of parties. Once a federal court determines that someone absent from the proceedings has an interest that can be affected by the case, the court must order that person to be joined as a party if it is practical to do so. If not, the court must weigh the competing interests of the plaintiff who would like to keep the case in federal court, the defendant who might be exposed to multiple lawsuits on the same issue, and the absent person whose rights may be lost if he or she does not become a party. The court must also consider how best to avoid wasting judicial time and resources and whether the case before it is the most efficient way to resolve the controversy.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Ordinary resolution to Patients' Rights - ConsentParties - Parties In Lawsuits, Parties As Adversaries, Legal Entities That Can Be Parties, The Capacity To Sue Or Be Sued