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Dawavendewa v. Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Defendant motioned to dismiss the case for failure to join the Nation, an alleged indispensible party. The district court dismissed the case, and Plaintiff appeals.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Pursuant to FRCP 19, a case must be dismissed if an indispensable party is unable to be joined.

    Facts.

    Defendant, the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, made an agreement to lease the land from the Navajo Nation. The lease stated that Defendant was obligated to make hiring preference to local Navajos. Plaintiff, Harold Dawavendewa, a Hopi, applied to attain a job with Defendant, but Defendant denied him an interview. Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendant for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Defendant motioned to dismiss the case for failure to join the Nation, which Defendant claims is an indispensable party. The district court agreed with Defendant and dismissed the case. Plaintiff appeals.  

    Issue.

    Whether, pursuant to FRCP 19, a case must be dismissed if an indispensable party is unable to be joined.

    Held.

    Yes, pursuant to FRCP 19, a case must be dismissed if an indispensable party is unable to be joined.

    Discussion.

    Pursuant to FRCP 19, a case must be dismissed if an indispensable party is unable to be joined. When a party is a necessary to the case and must be joined in the litigation, if feasible. However, if the court is unable to give the parties proper relief in the absence of the party, a court must dismiss the case. The court determines the necessity of a party based on the following factors: whether a judgment without the party will prevent the party from protecting its interest or will the judgment expose the party to multiple or inconsistent liabilities. Also, a court must determined if a verdict, in the party’s absence, will prejudice an existing party, the relief would be prejudiced in the absence of the party, if the relief will even be adequate for the existing parties, and if there is another available forum for the case to be tried. When there is no alternative forum, the case must be dismissed. In this case, the Nation is a necessary party. Even if Plaintiff is successful and obtains a favorable verdict, Plaintiff will not obtain complete relief without the Nation being a party.  Also, if Defendant discontinues the hiring policy in the agreement, the Nation could bring suit to enforce the policy in the agreement. Thus, the Nation would not be able to enforce its contractual rights under the lease it had with Defendant. Lomayaktewa v. Hathaway, 520 F.2d 1324 (9th Cir. 1975) (holding when a legal action results when a contract is being set aside, the parties to the contact are deemed in indispensable).  Moreover, if the court reaches a conclusion in the case at hand, in the absence of the Nation, the Nation would be prejudiced economically, contractually, and sovereignly.  Also, Defendant will face inconsistent obligations. There is not another avenue for the court to properly grant relief, nor would the court to properly grant relief to either party. Therefore, the Nation is an indispensable party, and was properly dismissed.


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