A joinder is the act of “joining” several legal issues together in the same lawsuit. A joinder allows for two or more issues to be heard during one hearing or trial, so as to make the process run more smoothly, and to help ensure the outcome is fair for all involved.

A joinder also helps the court system in that judges do not have to waste their time hearing the same facts over and over again, or seeing the same parties return to court individually for each and every legal dispute they may have. The term “joinder” is also used in contract law to describe the process of adding new parties to an existing contract. To explore this concept, consider the following joinder definition.

Definition of Joinder


  1. The act of bringing multiple legal issues together under the same lawsuit.


1595-1605       French joindre

Joinder Agreement

While the definition varies by state, typically a joinder agreement is a type of legal contract that is established when the parties to that contract set up a trust fund. Joinder agreements are combined with other contracts and trust agreements by individuals, as well as corporations.

The purpose of a joinder agreement is to make sure that the funds in an account are appropriately invested and distributed. A trust manager is assigned to the trust in the joinder agreement, and the parties that may disburse the funds of the trust to beneficiaries of their choosing, are specifically listed.

Permissive Joinder

Permissive joinder is covered in Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A permissive joinder allows two or more parties to join an action if they each have a claim that arose from the same incident. Similarly, a permissive joinder is allowed if there is a common question of law or fact that pertains to all of the parties’ claims.

An example of joinder that that is a permissive joinder would be several landowners coming together to sue a company for dumping toxic waste in close proximity to their homes. Each landowner could effectively file a claim for the same relief, including emotional distress and even actual damages.

Another instance of a permissive joinder is a class-action lawsuit that customers file against a manufacturer for selling them a faulty or even dangerous product. The key, however, lies in the jurisdiction of the defendant(s). Every defendant that is joined in the action must fall under the same court’s jurisdiction, in order for a permissive joinder to exist.

Consider the following example of a permissive joinder involving a car accident:

Harry is a truck driver for ABC Soda Company. While driving one night, he falls asleep at the wheel and plows into the back of Mary’s SUV. Mary can sue Harry for the damages he inflicted upon her car and for her medical expenses. However, she can also ask the court to join ABC Soda Company into the lawsuit, since Harry was an employee of the company, and was working at the time of the accident as an agent of the company.

These two potential lawsuits arise from the same incident: the collision of Harry’s truck with Mary’s SUV. Since Mary is the one who would be filing the initial complaint, it is up to her as to whether she would want to file the suit against Harry, ABC Soda Company, or both in the same action.

Compulsory Joinder

Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure deals with compulsory joinder. A compulsory joinder makes it mandatory for certain parties to be joined in the action. This is because those parties are considered vital and invaluable to the litigation. There are several reasons as to why this may be, not least of all the fact that one of these parties may have an interest in the litigation that he would be unable to protect if he was not joined in the action.

However, the courts will not hold up litigation if the compulsory joinder is not possible, either because the “necessary” parties refuse to join, or are they are simply unreachable. It is up to the courts to decide who is truly indispensable, though they can use the Federal Rules to guide them on how best to move forward.

Consider the following example of joinder that is a compulsory joinder involving a stolen car:

Mark buys a car for $1,000. After two years, he decides to sell the car to James for $500. The following week, however, Mark finds out that the car was worth more than what he sold it for. Mark asks James if he would consider returning the car for a refund, but James refuses, saying he is now the rightful owner of the car. Mark sues James, asking that James be ordered to return the car. However, it is discovered during the litigation that the car was actually stolen from Stan before Mark bought it. Now Stan would like the car returned to him.

Here, Mark’s lawsuit against James cannot be fully litigated without Stan present. This is because the issue of ownership cannot be settled without Stan. Stan has an interest in the lawsuit because he is the original owner of the car.

Since ownership of the car could not be awarded without the court addressing Stan’s ownership rights, it would be more difficult for the court to award ownership to Mark or James when the car actually belongs to Stan. Therefore, in this case, Stan would probably be considered a necessary party to the action, and included by a compulsory joinder.

Compulsory Joinder Example in a Criminal Case

An example of joinder can be found in a criminal case from 2011, involving the possession of cannabis, or marijuana. On March 14, 2011, Brandon Riley was charged with two counts of possession of marijuana. After being indicted by a grand jury on those charges, Riley’s attorney moved to dismiss the case, based on the principles of compulsory joinder and double jeopardy.

Insofar as the double jeopardy claim was concerned, Riley asserted that he had already pled guilty to a misdemeanor possession charge back in January of that same year. This was after police found marijuana in his home, after obtaining a warrant authorizing them to search the premises.

At the time of his arrest, Riley was living with five other people in the house. Two other men within the home – Justin Harper and Michael Page – were found to be in possession of marijuana by the police as well. Riley argued that the controlling precedent in this case required that a trial court find instances of actual and constructive possession of contraband that occur simultaneously would allow for the issues to be joined. However, the State countered that, because there was cannabis throughout the home, and because it was found on more than one person, there was no way to tell who the owner of the cannabis was.

Further, the State argued that felony and misdemeanor offenses require different types and amounts of evidence in order to prove. For instance, the smaller amount of pot was easier to connect to Riley, while the larger amount was not. This rendered the possibility of a joinder nonexistent. The trial court ultimately denied Riley’s motion to dismiss, so Riley filed a motion to reconsider. The trial court denied that motion too, and so Riley filed an appeal with the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District.

Said the Court, upon reviewing the case:

“…a prosecution is barred if three conditions are met: (1) the existence of a prior prosecution; (2) the offense charged in the current prosecution was known to the proper prosecuting officer at the time of commencing the prosecution for the prior offense; and (3) both prosecutions arise from the same act. Both parties agree that whether charges are subject to compulsory joinder is an issue of law and so subject to de novo review when, as here, none of the relevant facts is in dispute.”

Ultimately, the Court reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court explained its reasoning in its decision, which was filed in December of 2012:

“That the larger quantity of cannabis could have belonged to another person at the house did undermine the possibility that the larger amount of cannabis could have belonged to defendant. However, we do not read the knowledge component of section 3-3(b) of the compulsory joinder statute as requiring knowledge to a precise degree of specificity. Rather, we believe that the proper reading of that provision, as described in Hiatt, is that so long as the State was aware of the possibility of charges stemming from the larger quantity of cannabis, the State had knowledge of the offense.”

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Actual Damages – Money awarded to compensate someone for actual monetary or property losses. Also referred to as “compensatory damages,” the amount of money awarded is based on the proven loss, injury, or harm proven by the plaintiff.
  • Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or who has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
  • Double Jeopardy – The Fifth Amendment protection from being tried for the same crime twice, and from being compelled to testify against oneself.
  • Emotional Distress – A negative emotional reaction, such as anguish, humiliation, or grief, resulting from the conduct of another individual. Also referred to as “mental anguish.”
  • Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
  • Litigation – The process of taking legal action; the process of suing someone, or trying them for a criminal act.
  • Trial – A formal presentation of evidence before a judge and jury for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, or to make a determination in a civil matter.