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Bailee or bailor as party to suit

Under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, an action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest.  The following may sue in their own names without joining the person for whose benefit the action is brought:

  • an executor;
  • an administrator;
  • a guardian;
  • a bailee;
  • a trustee of an express trust;
  • a party with whom or in whose name a contract has been made for another’s benefit; and
  • a party authorized by statute.

However, the court may not dismiss an action for failure to prosecute in the name of the real party in interest until, after an objection, a reasonable time has been allowed for the real party in interest to ratify, join, or be substituted into the action.  After ratification, joinder, or substitution, the action proceeds as if it had been originally commenced by the real party in interest.

Admiralty favors the principle that the real party in interest is a proper party, and the party entitled to relief.  In admiralty, an agent may sue in his or her own name, for example, where the owners are absent.  The agent may also sue in his or her name in class suits and may do so as well as in the name of his or her principal.

In determining whether a libellant’s proctor was authorized to file the suit which he or she actually filed, the principle is applied that considered steps in litigation taken by a member of the bar of a court are binding on his or her client unless fraud is shown.  Since in admiralty a possessory title is sufficient to enable a person to be the party plaintiff, a bailee may sue for damage inflicted on cargo in its possession.  Thus, a carrier may sue for damage to the property carried.  Suit may also be instituted in the name of the bailor, as, for instance, the consignee of cargo.

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