Ward v. Apple, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Appellate Procedure
  • Date Filed: 06-29-2015
  • Case #: 12-17805
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Smith for the Court; Circuit Judges Wallace and Friedland; Dissent by Judge Wallace
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19, an alleged joint tortfeasor is a required party and must be joined when the alleging party claims an interest relating to the subject of the action, and the absence of the alleged tortfeasor could have negative a consequence on the plaintiff.

Zack Ward and Thomas Buchar (“plaintiffs”) filed a class action against Apple, Inc. (“Apple”), claiming that Apple conspired with AT & T Mobility (“ATTM”) to violate federal antitrust laws. Apple and ATTM had an exclusivity agreement that ATTM would be the sole provider of voice and data services for Apple’s IPhone for five years. The district court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims under Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) for failure to join ATTM, an alleged antitrust co-conspirator, as a defendant. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion in finding that ATTM was a necessary party under FRCP 19.The panel found that whether or not a party should be joined depends on the circumstances of the case and whether the alleged joint tortfeasor has particular interests that cannot be protected in a legal action unless it is joined. The panel held that ATTM was not a required party under FRCP 19, but also held that the district court abused its discretion in failing to identify, or even inquire, if ATTM had any interests that might have been impaired if the class action were resolved in its absence. In order for a party to be deemed a “required party,” the party must: (1) claim an interest relating to the subject of the action, and (2) show that disposing of the action without the party may have negative consequences on the absent party’s interests. Generally, an absent co-conspirator will not be a required party, since antitrust co-conspirators are already jointly and are severally liable for damages, however, the inquiry is still case specific. The panel held ATTM was not a required party under FRCP 19 and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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