The relationship between an original defendant and a third-party defendant is that of coparties. The broad definition of the term "coparty," in Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(g), appears to be the most sensible reading of the term "coparty" in the context of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Such construction comports with the structure of the Federal Rules, which envision three types of claims that may be asserted by defendants: Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(a) counterclaims against opposing parties, Fed. R. Civ. P. 14(a) third-party claims against non-parties, and Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(g) cross-claims against coparties.
Plaintiff executor sued, inter alia, defendant manufacturer for negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty, and the manufacturer filed a cross-claim against third party defendant and cross-defendant the United States of America (the Government), which moved to dismiss, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing it was not a "coparty" of the manufacturer, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(g). The manufacturer said a Government employee contributed to an accident for which it was sued. The Government said it and the manufacturer were not "coparties" because it was a third-party defendant, while the manufacturer was an original defendant.
Are Superior and the Government coparties for purposes of Rule 13(g) and is Superior's claim therefore a proper cross-claim?
The motion was denied. Construing Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(g) to treat the Government as a non-party or make the manufacturer meet resulting procedural requirements was unwarranted because this defeated the purposes of avoiding multiple suits and encouraging an entire controversy's determination with a minimum of procedural steps. The cross-claim was timely because (1) this was a determination within the court's discretion, (2) the Government alleged no prejudice, and (3) allowing the cross-claim to proceed did not likely cause prejudice or undue complication or delay. It was unnecessary to dismiss the cross-claim for insufficient service under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(i) because (1) the Government was a party when it was filed, having been brought into the action by another defendant's cross-claim and filed an answer, and (2) it was not shown that service on the Government's attorney under Fed. R. Civ. P. 5 was insufficient or prejudicial.