Joinder of Parties in Civil Lawsuits

A civil lawsuit is a legal action brought in a court by a person who is called the plaintiff. Generally, a lawsuit has one plaintiff who asserts one or more claims against one defendant. However, there are situations in which additional parties can be added to the lawsuit.

Joinder of Necessary and Indispensable Parties

Court rules provide that a person who is deemed to be a necessary party should be added to the lawsuit if it is feasible to do so. However, if the person is not joined, the court will not dismiss the lawsuit. A person deemed to be an indispensable party must be added to the lawsuit. An indispensable party is a person the court considers absolutely necessary for a resolution of the lawsuit. If the person is not joined in the lawsuit, the court will dismiss the action.

Permissive Joinder of Parties

Court rules provide that the plaintiff has the option of joining an additional person as a plaintiff. The defendant also has the option of joining an additional person as a defendant. The test for permissive joinder of parties is whether the lawsuit raises a question of law or fact common to all parties and whether some right to relief relating to the same event is asserted on behalf of each plaintiff and against each defendant.

Impleading Third Parties

A defendant is permitted to bring into the action or implead another person or persons whom the defendant claims would be liable to him or her for all or part of the plaintiff's claim. The added person is called the third-party defendant, and the defendant who asks the court to add the third party is called the third-party plaintiff. It is up to the court whether to permit a defendant to add a third party. The court might decide not to add a third party if it would complicate or confuse the lawsuit. Examples of third parties who might be impleaded include a person who is a joint venturer with the defendant. Another example would be an insurance company that might be responsible for payment of the plaintiff's claim if the defendant, an insured, were held liable.

Interpleader

Interpleader involves a situation where the subject of the lawsuit is property or a fund of money. If several persons have conflicting claims to the property involved in the lawsuit or to a fund of money, they may be interpleaded or joined in the lawsuit as defendants. For example, an association had a fund of money that it had collected from its members. A deceased member's widow claimed the right to part of the fund. The association interpleaded the deceased member's brother, who also claimed a right to part of the fund.

Intervener

An intervener is a person who intervenes or voluntarily joins in a lawsuit that is pending between the plaintiff and the defendant. The court has to grant the intervener permission to join the lawsuit. In order to be part of the lawsuit, the intervener has to show that he or she has some right or interest in the lawsuit. For example, in an Ohio case, the paternal grandparents sought to intervene in a lawsuit that had been filed by a county welfare department. The department wanted to terminate the parental rights of a father and a mother because the parents were not providing adequate parental care. The grandparents filed a motion to intervene to prevent the department from obtaining permanent custody of their grandson. The court held that the grandparents had no legal right to custody or visitation and could not intervene.