498 U.S. 5
PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Petitioner medical patient sought certiorari review of a judgment from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which upheld the trial court's judgment dismissing petitioner's lawsuit with prejudice for failure to join a doctor and a hospital upon its conclusion that they were joint tort-feasors and indispensable parties under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(b).
-Petitioner underwent surgery in which a "plate and screw device" was implanted in his lower spine. After the surgery, the device's screws broke off inside petitioner's back.
-Petitioner filed suit against respondent manufacturer alleging defective design and manufacture of the device.
-In a separate action against his physician and the hospital, petitioner sued for malpractice and negligence.
-Upon respondent's motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(b), the trial court dismissed the suit with prejudice for failure to join the doctor and the hospital in the lawsuit against respondent, a judgment that was affirmed by the appellate court.
-The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari, reviewed the record, and concluded that it was not necessary for all joint tort-feasors to be named as defendants in a single lawsuit.
-The Court held that the doctor and hospital, as joint tort-feasors with the manufacturer of the device, were merely permissive parties, and the trial court erred in ordering them joined as indispensable parties and in dismissing the action when petitioner failed to comply with the trial court's order to join them.
It is not necessary for all joint tort-feasors to be named as defendants in a single lawsuit under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a). Rather, a tort-feasor with the usual joint-and-several liability is merely a permissive party to an action against another with like liability.
CONCLUSION: The Court reversed the judgment of dismissal and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the doctor and hospital, as joint tort-feasors, were permissive parties.
Interested in learning how to get the top grades in your law school classes? Want to learn how to study smarter than your competition? Interested in transferring to a high ranked school?