Necessary Parties in Multi-Party Contract Claims

It is usually required that one join all “necessary parties” to a lawsuit. “A necessary [party] is one who is so vitally interested in the subject matter of controversy that a valid judgment cannot be effectively rendered without the party’s presence.” Jones v. Jones, 285 S.W.3d 356, 360 (Mo. Ct. App. 2009).

In a breach of contract case where there are multiple parties to the contract, and only one party is in breach, is it necessary that all parties to the contract be joined as parties to the lawsuit? It depends.

In a suit on a contract by one of the parties to the contract, the only defendants typically required are (1) “the parties to the contract sued on” and (2) those who have an interest in the dispute which will be affected by the action.” Bunting v. McDonnell Aircraft Corp., 522 S.W.2d 161, 169 (Mo. 1975). An “interest in the dispute” for purposes of this analysis must be “such a direct claim upon the subject matter of the action that the [absent party] will either gain or lose by direct operation of the judgment to be rendered.” Id.

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