decided: March 3, 1890.
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS.
[ 133 U.S. Page 585]
MR. JUSTICE LAMAR, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the court.
The bill having been dismissed by agreement, as respects the defendant Swift, the only questions in the case for our consideration are those relating to the demurrer of the defendant Stetson. That demurrer rests on ten grounds, but the court below considered only one of them, viz., the ninth one, which is as follows: "This bill is defective for want of proper parties, in that it does not make Mary H. Pike, executrix of Frederic A. Pike, Thomas H. Talbot and Francis A. Brooks, or either of them, parties thereto."
[ 133 U.S. Page 586]
We are of opinion that the decree of the court below must stand. The rule as to who shall be made parties to a suit in equity is thus stated in Story's Eq. Pl. § 72: "It is a general rule in equity (subject to certain exceptions, which will hereafter be noticed) that all persons materially interested, either legally or beneficially, in the subject matter of a suit are to be made parties to it, either as plaintiffs or as defendants, however numerous they may be, so that there may be a complete decree, which shall bind them all. By this means, the court is enabled to make a complete decree between the parties, to prevent future litigation by taking away the necessity of a multiplicity of suits, and to make it perfectly certain that no injustice is done, either to the parties before, it, or to others, who are interested in the subject matter, by a decree, which might otherwise be grounded upon a partial view only of the real merits. When all the parties are before the court, the whole case may be seen; but it may not, where all the conflicting interests are not brought out upon the pleadings by the original parties thereto." See also 1 Daniell's Chan. Pl. and Prac. 246 et seq.
In the case before us we are unable to see how any final decree could be rendered affecting the parties to the contract sued on without making them all parties to the suit. It is an elementary principle that a court cannot adjudicate directly upon a person's right without having him either actually or constructively before it. This principle is fundamental. The allegations of the bill show that the contract sued on was made and entered into subsequently to the termination of the proceedings before the referee. By the terms of that contract the note in dispute between Mrs. Pike and the complainant was to be held by the bailee, Stetson, "subject to the joint order and direction" of their respective attorneys. It seems too plain to require argument that complainant Gregory, Mrs. Pike, Talbot, Brooks and Stetson, all had an interest in the subject matter of the contract -- such an interest, too, as brings the case within the rule just announced.
The point was made in the court below, and it is also pressed here, that Mrs. Pike being a non-resident and beyond the jurisdiction
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of the court, it was impossible to join her as a party defendant to this suit, and that it was, therefore, unnecessary to attempt to do so. The court below ruled against the complainant on this point, and we see no error in that ruling. The general question involved therein has been before this court a number of times, and it is now well settled that, notwithstanding the statute referred to and the 47th equity rule, a Circuit Court can make no decree in a suit in the absence of a party whose rights must necessarily be affected thereby. Shields v. Barrow, 17 How. 130, 141, 142; Coiron v. Millaudon, 19 How. 113, 115, and cases there cited.
But even admitting the complainant's contention as regards the making of Mrs. Pike a party to this suit, it does not follow that Talbot and Brooks should not have been made parties. As we have shown, they had a substantial interest in the subject matter of the contract sued on, and they should have been made parties to the suit.
We see no error in the decree of the court below prejudicial to the complainant, and it is therefore.
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