nominal party

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A plaintiff or defendant who has no real interest in the result of the suit, or no actual interest or control over the subject matter of the litigation, but is solely joined because a technical rule of practice requires their presence in the record. For example, in Illinois, every wrongful death action must be brought by and in the names of the personal representatives of the deceased and such actions are filed for the “exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin of such deceased person.” Thus, the personal representative in a wrongful-death claim is a nominal party to the action. The personal representative is effectively filing suit on behalf of the surviving spouse and next of kin, who are the true parties in interest.

The Supreme Court in Navarro Sav. Ass'n v. Lee stated that, for diversity purposes, a citizen must be a “real and substantial part[y] to the controversy,” and that a court determining whether it has diversity jurisdiction over an action “must disregard nominal or formal parties and rest jurisdiction only upon the citizenship of real parties to the controversy.” 

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]