Rules of Civil Procedure

Rules of Civil Procedure  Civil Procedure Rule 19: Joinder of persons needed for just adjudication

Effective Date: 07/01/1974

Table of Contents

(a) Persons to be joined if feasible

A person who is subject to service of process shall be joined as a party in the action if (1) in his absence complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties, or (2) he claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that the disposition of the action in his absence may (i) as a practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect that interest or (ii) leave any of the persons already parties subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations by reason of his claimed interest. If he has not been so joined, the court shall order that he be made a party. If he should join as a plaintiff but refuses to do so, he may be made a defendant.

(b) Determination by court whenever joinder not feasible

If a person as described in subdivision (a)(1)-(2) hereof cannot be made a party, the court shall determine whether in equity and good conscience the action should proceed among the parties before it, or should be dismissed, the absent person being thus regarded as indispensable. The factors to be considered by the court include: first, to what extent a judgment rendered in the person's absence might be prejudicial to him or those already parties; second, the extent to which, by protective provisions in the judgment, by the shaping of relief, or other measures, the prejudice can be lessened or avoided; third, whether a judgment rendered in the person's absence will be adequate; fourth, whether the plaintiff will have an adequate remedy if the action is dismissed for nonjoinder.

(c) Pleading reasons for nonjoinder

A pleading asserting a claim for relief shall state the names, if known to the pleader, of any persons as described in subdivision (a)(1)-(2) hereof who are not joined, and the reasons why they are not joined.

(d) Exception of class actions

This rule is subject to the provisions of Rule 23.

Reporter's notes

(1973) Rule 19 deals with compulsory joinder of parties. With the exception of the language in Rule 19(a) pertaining to jurisdiction, involuntary plaintiffs and venue, it follows Federal Rule 19.

Rule 19(a) sets out the general rule as to those persons with respect to whom joinder is compulsory. (See Rule 20 as to permissive joinder.) Rule 19 covers, generally, those individuals who under prior Massachusetts practice would be classified as necessary parties or indispensable parties.

Rule 19(b) deals with persons who fall within Rule 19(a) but cannot be made parties. If under the tests set out in Rule 19(b) such an absent person is regarded as indispensable, the action will be dismissed; otherwise the court may proceed with the parties before it, with judgment obviously binding those parties only.

Rules 19(a) and 19(b) are quite similar to prior equity practice. Eustis Manufacturing Co. v. Saco Brick Co., 198 Mass. 212, 219-220, 84 N.E. 449, 452-453 (1908); Franks v. Markson, 337 Mass. 278, 284, 149 N.E.2d 619, 623 (1958).

Under that practice a court could of its own motion order a cause to stand over in order that an indispensable party might be joined. Sutcliffe v. Cawley, 240 Mass. 231, 239, 132 N.E. 406, 409 (1921). "Whenever the lack of indispensable parties has become manifest the court may dismiss the bill of its own motion." Turner v. United Mineral Lands Corp., 308 Mass. 531, 539, 33 N.E.2d 282, 286-287 (1941). As in federal practice under Rule 19, under Massachusetts equity practice if a person who should join as a plaintiff refused to do so, he would be made a party-defendant. Billings v. Mann, 156 Mass. 203, 205, 30 N.E. 1136, 1137 (1892).

In a few actions at law, prior practice made joinder compulsory. In contract actions, joint obligees were indispensable parties. Thomas v. Benson, 264 Mass. 555, 556, 163 N.E. 181, 182 (1928). However joint obligors were only conditionally necessary parties; failure to join a joint obligor was merely a defect in form, and could be pressed only by a plea in abatement. Id. at 556-557, 163 N.E. at 182. The reason for this rule was that each of such persons was liable for the whole amount claimed by the plaintiff.

In personal actions of tort, even though the wrongdoers were joint tortfeasors, the plaintiff could elect between joining them and suing them separately. Thus it was not a ground of abatement that others potentially liable were not served. Donnelly v. Larkin, 327 Mass. 287, 296, 98 N.E.2d 280, 285-286 (1951).

The language of Rule 19(a) will not effect these common law doctrines.

Rule 19(c) is the same as Federal Rule 19(c). It requires a pleading asserting a claim for relief to state the names, if known to the pleader, of any persons described in Rule 19(a) who were not joined and the reasons why they were not joined. The usual reason for non-joinder will be that such person was not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Before making such allegation the plaintiff should assure himself that the "long-arm" statute (G.L. c. 223A) does not make the absent defendant amenable to process. Rule 19(d) merely makes Rule 19 subject to the provisions of Rule 23 (Class Actions).

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