Monday, May 6, 2019

New Rule Pertaining to John Doe Designations in Pleadings Recently Went Into Effect - Pa.R.C.P. 2005

On April 1, 2019, Pa.R.C.P. 2005, which governs the use of “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” designations in pleadings, took effect.

According to the Comment to the Rule, the Rules of Civil Procedure were silent as to this issue prior to the implementation of Pa.R.C.P. 2005.

The rule allows a plaintiff or a defendant joining party to designate an unknown defendant by use of a Doe designation provided certain conditions are met. Under the Rule, the Doe defendant’s actual name must be unknown to the plaintiff or the defendant joining party after the completion of a reasonable search for the person using due diligence.

According to the Comment, an effort to list as parties, “Defendants John Doe 1-10 is frowned upon.

The Rule also requires a specific allegation in the pleading confirming that the Doe designation is a designation of a fictitious person or entity.  Also included in the pleading must be a factual description of the unknown defendant which must contain sufficient particularity for identification.
Moreover, the plaintiff or defendant joining party must aver that a reasonable search to determine the actual name of the Doe defendant has been conducted.

Any named defendant in the action is granted authority under Rule 2005(e) to file Preliminary objections on the grounds of nonconformity with this Rule 2005 by the Plaintiff or on the grounds of prejudice.

The Rule additionally provides that once the actual name of the unknown defendant is determined, the plaintiff or joining party must file a motion to amend the Complaint pursuant to this Rule 2005 and in accordance with Pa.R.C.P. 1033, by replacing the “Doe” designation with the defendant’s actual name.  Such a motion must be supported by an affidavit explaining the nature and extent of the investigation utilized to determine the Doe defendant’s actual identity and to provide the date that the identity was determined.

Under the Rule, it is also provided that subpoenas in aid of discovery relating to an unknown Defendant may not be issued or served without leave of court.

Rule 2005 also confirms that a judgment may not be entered by the court against an unknown Defendant.

Source:  Article “New Rule of Civil Procedure Governing Unknown Defendants Took Effect April 1, 2019” by Matthew E. Salmasska, Esq. in the PBA’s Civil Litigation Sections Civil Litigation Update Newsletter at p. 13 (Spring, 2019).  See also Pa.R.C.P. 2005.

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