A defendant has the opportunity to add in a third party for claims against them. However, these joinder claims are more limited than the simple “transaction or occurrence” test utilized by some of the other joinder rules.

Impleader Under Rule 14

Rule 14(a)(1)

“A defending party may, as third-party plaintiff, serve a summons and complaint upon a nonparty who is or may be liable to it for all or part of the claim against it.”

Ultimately, the defendant (as third-party plaintiff) is seeking reimbursement from a third party defendant.

Additional Notes

Indemnification: to compensate (reimburse) another for their loss (contract law).

Contribution: to contribute to a partial (or full) reimbursement up to the amount of the contributor’s responsibility (liability) (tort law).

Rule 14 allows these claims to be heard by the same jury. This is not a crossclaim.

Derivative liability means that one party’s liability occurs because of another’s liability. If a person is solely liable to the plaintiff (not the defendant), then Rule 14 cannot apply.

Sometimes plaintiff’s chose not to add in the additional defendants. There are two main reasons:

  1. Sometimes the plaintiff does not know who the additional defendant’s could be.
  2. Strategic reasons: put some pressure on small businesses (leverage) who does not want to sue related suppliers.

Erkins v. Case Power & Equipment Co.

164 F.R.D. 31 (D.N.J. 1995).

Case is the defendant wishing to add third party defendants of ECRACOM and Fitzpatrick.


Whether the parties should be added.


When determining whether the courts will accept a third-party impleader, the courts consider:

  1. Timeliness of the motion
  2. Potential for complication of issues at trial
  3. Probability of trial delay
  4. Whether the plaintiff will be prejudiced by the addition of parties.


  1. Third party defendant must be liable to the defendant, or secondary to the original plaintiff. This process is through contribution or indemnity.

Here, leave should be granted to add in the third party defendants.


Here, the potential third party defendants are arguing that they cannot be added because their claims are not the same as the claim the plaintiff has against the defendant (strict liability v. negligence). However, the court refutes that argument saying that those claims contributed to the injury, to which can reimburse the defendant. In this case, both would be joint tortfeasors, albeit with different claims. Those separate types of claims does not prevent the defendant from bringing in the new parties as third-party defendants.

Erkins worked for a subcontractor who was contracted by ECRACOM. ECRACOM was then contracted but Fitzpatrick, the general contractor for a project. Erkins was riding in the bucket of some heavy machinery when he fell out and suffered fatal injuries.

As a result, Erkins estate sued Case who was the manufacturer of the machinery (should have provided better warning labels). However, Erkins did not sue ECRACOM or Fitzpatrick. Thus, Case wished to implead both those parties are third party defendants for claims of negligence (failed to properly train on machinery and safety use).


Erkins is an example of an impleader being brought for contribution. This is the process where the third party defendant contributed to the injury and therefore should be brought into the case to “pay their share.”

Another type of impleader is indemnification. This is full reimbursement for any judgment against the original defendant. Claims for indemnification typically come from contracted agreements to indemnify (before any incidents occurred).

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger

437 U.S. 365 (1978).

Procedural History:

First, Kroger sued OPPD in federal court. Second, OPPD added Owen as a third party. Third, Kroger amended the original pleading to include Owen as a co-defendant. Fourth, OPPD was granted summary judgment. Fifth, Kroger won against Owen and the court of appeals affirmed.


Does the federal court have jurisdiction to hear this case?


Supplemental jurisdiction will not allow third-party impleaders.


Here, the case must be dismissed (should have sued in state court).


Kroger’s husband died from a power line that was being worked on by the OPPD. As such, Kroger sued the OPPD for negligence in installation and maintenance. To avoid some consequences, OPPD added Owen for negligence in owning and operating the crane leading to the plaintiff’s loss. Thus, Kroger amended the pleading to include Owen as a defendant.

The domiciles of the parties are thus:

  • Kroger – Iowa
  • OPPD – Nebraska
  • Owen – Iowa

However, Owen thought that they were from Nebraska (weird river shift). So, the case went forward in federal courts even when OPPD was no longer a party.


This case cannot go forward under the jurisdictional requirements of 28 USC § 1332. This case ultimately becomes a state law issue with Iowa citizens on either side of the case. Thus, there was a lack of complete diversity. The fact that one party came in from an impleader does not change this situation. Otherwise, all the plaintiff would have to do to get in federal courts is wait for the defendant to bring in a third party. This workaround is not something Rule 14 will allow.

Quite simply, statutes determine subject matter jurisdiction, not Federal Procedure Rules.

Additional Notes

Both the claim and the subject matter jurisdiction must be met for a party to be impleaded.

  1. Hypo
    1. Plaintiff is from IA
    2. Defendant is from IA
    3. Federal claim
    4. Defendant MAY bring another defendant from IA through Rule 14 applying supplemental jurisdiction
  2. Hypo
    1. Plaintiff is from IA
    2. Defendant is from WI
    3. State law claim
    4. Defendant MAY bring another defendant from WI through Rule 14 applying supplemental jurisdiction
  3. Hypo (Present case)
    1. Plaintiff is from IA
    2. Defendant is from Neb
    3. State law claim
    4. Plaintiff MAY NOT bring another defendant from IA through Rule 14

Defendants may use the plaintiff’s anchor claim to bring a third party defendant. This option is not available to the plaintiff.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.

Will Laursen

Show Your Support


Table of Contents