Quasi in rem

Quasi in rem: an overview

When hearing quasi in rem actions, a court may only affect a named defendant's interest in a specific named piece of property. These actions have similarlities with both in rem and in personam actions. As is the case with in rem actions, a court may hear a quasi in rem action if the named property is within the court's jurisdiction, even if the court does not have the power to exercise in personam jurisdiction over the defendant. However, a court acting quasi in rem may only affect the interests of a single, named defendant, as is the case in an in personam action.

There are two types of quasi in rem actions. In a quasi in rem subtype 1 action, a plaintiff may sue to enforce a pre-existing interest in the named property. For example, a lender might use a quasi in rem subtype 1 action to foreclose a mortgage.

A quasi in rem subtype 2 action is more complicated. In this type of action, a plaintiff may sue to apply the named property to satisfy his or her claim against the property's owner, where the plaintiff's claim is unrelated to the property. This type of action is technically against the named property, not the property's owner. Thus, the outcome of the case is final regarding the plaintiff's claim against the named property and does not affect the plaintiff's future claim against other pieces of property or the property's actual owner. See res judicata.

For example, an American plaintiff injured by a reckless driver while vacationing in a foreign country might use a quasi in rem subtype 2 to recover from the driver if American courts could not obtain personal jurisdiction over him.

Courts may not exercise quasi in rem subtype 2 jurisdiction where it would be unreasonable to do so.

Illustrative caselaw

See, e.g. Burnham v. Superior Court, 495 U.S. 604 (1990) and Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 U.S. 186 (1977).

See also