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PA: Not Naming A Necessary Party: Not Always Necessary!

Schenkel v. Monheit, 226 Pa. Super. 396 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1979)

Student Contributor: Melissa Goldberg

PA Underlying personal injury action.

Facts: Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident when his vehicle was struck from behind by a car driven by Charles Salem. Plaintiff thereafter retained Defendant as his attorney to prosecute Plaintiff’s civil action against Salem. When Defendant filed this action, he did not join Salem’s employer, as Defendants in the underlying action. Plaintiff claims that at the time of the accident, Salem was "on the job" and was within the scope of his employment and that the employer should have been joined as Defendants. Plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with Defendant handling of the personal injury action led appellant to dismiss Defendant before trial and retain other counsel to complete the case. Plaintiff was awarded 10,000 dollars in the personal injury case, which he collected in full. Plaintiffs alleged that the jury would have awarded him a larger verdict in the personal injury action if the corporate employer had been joined as a Defendant.

Issue: Was Defendant’s alleged negligence the proximate cause of damages to Plaintiff? 

The Result:  The failure to join the corporate employer should not have affected appellant’s damages. The tort was the same in this case, whether or not the corporate employer was a party to the action.

1) The actual tortfeasor, was made a Defendant; the corporate employer would only arguably be liable under agency principles, not as an independent tortfeasor.

2) Joinder of the corporate employer would simply have increased the number of parties against whom Plaintiff could enforce any judgment he received.

3) He received the full judgment.

Lesson: Failure to name a necessary party, when full recovery from the main tortfeasor was had,  did not proximately cause any injury to the plaintiff. If, on the other hand, the named tortfeasor did not have adequate insurance coverage to pay the judgment and if the unnamed party would have been vicariously liable, the result would have been different since then part of the judgment would remain unsatisfied. 

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Posted in: Litigation, Pennsylvania, Proximate Cause, Torts/Personal Injury