Civil Procedure II

Mandatory Joinder

A defendant can move to dismiss a case under Rule 19 for want of an indispensable party if the plaintiff does not join that party.

Indispensable Party

A party is indispensable if:

  1. complete relief cannot be given to the existing parties in its absence,
  2. its absence would expose an existing party to significant risk of double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations, or
  3. its absence would impair the missing party's ability to adequately protect its interest.

Rule 19(a).

Joint tortfeasors are jointly liable and a plaintiff can choose to sue only one, so absence of another is not indispensable, even in most comparative fault states.

A party can still only be joined if feasible, as personal jurisdiction, venue, and subject matter jurisdiction are still required.

If the plaintiff cannot join an indispensable party, the court must determine whether, in equity and good conscience, the action should proceed among the existing parties or should be dismissed. The factors for the court to consider include:

  1. The extent of prejudice to parties or non-party;
  2. The extent to which the court can lessen the prejudice by:
    1. protective provisions in the judgment;
    2. shaping the relief; or
    3. other measures;
  3. Whether judgment would be adequate without the missing party; and
  4. Whether the plaintiff would have an adequate remedy elsewhere.

Rule 19(b).

In the end, it turns on whether the plaintiff is worse with partial relief than if forced to sue elsewhere.