real party in interest

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A real party in interest is the person or entity who has the right to bring suit even though someone else would ultimately benefit from the suit if it is successful. For example, in In re. Semgroup Corp., a Texas Court of Appeals case, a widow and child were the real parties in interest in a wrongful death action trying to collect damages because of defendants alleged negligent killing of decedent-husband/father. That is, the widow and child have the right to sue defendants, but the ultimate beneficiary is decedent’s estate. In the context of trusts, a trustee may file suit against a person who damaged a building owned by the trust; the real party in the interest is the trustee, even though the trust beneficiaries ultimately benefit from the suit. Furthermore, many jurisdictions require that the suit be brought in the name of the real party in interest. For example, California Civil Procedure Code § 367 states that “[e] very action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest, except as otherwise provided by statute.”

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