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Bencivenga v. J.J.A.M.M., Inc.

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Brief Fact Summary.

A man was punched in the face at a nightclub, and tried to sue an unnamed (also known as a ‘fictitious’) defendant as part of his suit.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Judgements cannot be sought against a fictitious person.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

With that necessary exception there is no more reason to have a fact finder assign a percentage of negligence to someone who is not affected by the verdict than to assign a percentage of negligence to acts of God (such as the snow in this case) or a myriad of other causative factors that may have contributed to the happening of an accident.

View Full Point of Law
Facts.

Plaintiff was in a nightclub operated by the defendant when he was falsely accused of pinching a woman inappropriately.  He brought suit against the nightclub, unnamed employees of the nightclub, and the man who punched him (as the fictitious defendant, because he did not know the identity of the assailant).  The court found the nightclub negligent, and the defendant appealed on the grounds that liability cannot be correctly apportioned when a defendant is unnamed/fictitious.

Issue.

Can a judgement be entered against a fictitious defendant known to be negligent?

Held.

No, defendants must be named to be a party and have a judgement entered against them.

Discussion.

The court found that the facts of the case required an analysis of the negligence of each party, including the plaintiff, to determine the appropriate damages to award.  To this end, they reasoned that the defendants (and plaintiffs, though not applicable here) must not be fictitious in order for a judgement to be entered against them.  While negligence is a prerequisite to recovery, the negligence of a fictitious defendant is immaterial because no judgement can be entered against them.


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