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Temple v. Synthes Corp.

Citation. 498 U.S. 5 (1990)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff sued manufacturer, doctor, and hospital when a piece of the device implanted into his back breaks off. Plaintiff sued the manufacturer in federal court and the doctor and hospital in state court. Defendant manufacturer challenged the suit against him by claiming the doctor and hospital must be joined under FRCP 19.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

It is not necessary for all joint tortfeasors to be named as defendants in a single lawsuit because joint tortfeasors are merely permissive parties that do not have to be joined.


Plaintiff Temple underwent surgery at a Louisiana hospital to get a plate and screw, manufactured by Defendant Synthes, implanted into his spine. After one of the screws broke off in Plaintiff’s back, Plaintiff Temple sued Synthes in federal district court and the doctor that performed the surgery and the hospital in Louisiana state court. Defendant Synthes moved to dismiss the claim arguing that Plaintiff failed to join the doctor and hospital who were necessary under FRCP 19. The district court agreed and ordered Plaintiff Temple to join the doctor and hospital. When Temple failed to do so the court dismissed the suit. Plaintiff Temple appealed and the court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.


Is it necessary to join joint tortfeasors as necessary and indispensable parties where failure to join them requires dismissal of a federal claim?


No, it is not necessary to join all joint tortfeasors in a single lawsuit. The matter is reversed and remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.


  1. Joint tortfeasors are merely permissive parties.
  2. The Advisory Committee Notes to FRCP 19(a) clearly supports this.
  3. The threshold requirements of FRCP 19 are not met, therefore joint tortfeasors are merely permissive parties and therefore the public interest considerations of 19(b) are not evaluated.
  4. The matter is reversed and remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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