Article 4.

Parties.

Rule 17. Parties plaintiff and defendant; capacity.

(a)        Real party in interest. - Every claim shall be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest; but an executor, administrator, guardian, trustee of an express trust, a party with whom or in whose name a contract has been made for the benefit of another, or a party authorized by statute may sue in his own name without joining with him the party for whose benefit the action is brought; and when a statute of the State so provides, an action for the use or benefit of another shall be brought in the name of the State of North Carolina. No action shall be dismissed on the ground that it is not prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest until a reasonable time has been allowed after objection for ratification of commencement of the action by, or joinder or substitution of, the real party in interest; and such ratification, joinder, or substitution shall have the same effect as if the action had been commenced in the name of the real party in interest.

(b)        Infants, incompetents, etc. -

(1)        Infants, etc., Sue by Guardian or Guardian Ad Litem. - In actions or special proceedings when any of the parties plaintiff are infants or incompetent persons, whether residents or nonresidents of this State, they must appear by general or testamentary guardian, if they have any within the State or by guardian ad litem appointed as hereinafter provided; but if the action or proceeding is against such guardian, or if there is no such known guardian, then such persons may appear by guardian ad litem.

(2)        Infants, etc., Defend by Guardian Ad Litem. - In actions or  special proceedings when any of the defendants are infants or incompetent persons, whether residents or nonresidents of this State, they must defend by general or testamentary guardian, if they have any within this State or by guardian ad litem appointed as hereinafter provided; and if they have  no known general or testamentary guardian in the State, and any of them have been summoned, the court in which said action or special proceeding is pending, upon motion of any of the parties, may appoint some discreet person to act as guardian ad litem, to defend in behalf of such infants, or incompetent persons, and fix and tax his fee as part of the costs. The guardian so appointed shall, if the cause is a civil action, file his answer to the complaint within the time required for other defendants, unless the time is extended by the court; and if the cause is a special proceeding, a copy of the complaint, with the summons, must be served on him. After 20 days' notice of the summons and complaint in the special proceeding, and after answer filed as above prescribed in the civil action, the court may proceed to final judgment as effectually and in the same manner as if there had been personal service upon the said infant or incompetent persons or defendants.

                  All orders or final judgments duly entered in any action or special proceeding prior to April 8, 1974, when any of the defendants were infants or incompetent persons, whether residents or nonresidents of this State, and were defended therein by a general or testamentary guardian or guardian ad litem, and summons and complaint or petition in said action or special proceeding were duly served upon the guardian or guardian ad litem and answer duly filed by said guardian or guardian ad litem, shall be good and valid notwithstanding that said order or final judgment was entered less than 20 days after notice of the summons and complaint served upon said guardian or guardian ad litem.

(3)        Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem Notwithstanding the Existence of a General or Testamentary Guardian. - Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (b)(1) and (b)(2), a guardian ad litem for an infant or incompetent person may be appointed in any case when it is deemed by the court in which the action is pending expedient to have the infant, or insane or incompetent person so represented, notwithstanding such person may have a general or testamentary guardian.

(4)        Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem for Unborn Persons. - In all actions in rem and quasi in rem and in all actions and special proceedings which involve the construction of wills,  trusts and contracts or any instrument in writing, or which involve the determination of the ownership of property or the distribution of property, if there is a possibility that some person may thereafter be born who, if then living, would be a necessary or proper party to such action or special proceeding, the court in which said action or special proceeding is pending, upon motion of any of the parties or upon its own motion, may appoint some discreet person guardian ad litem to defend on behalf of such unborn person. Service upon the guardian ad litem appointed for such unborn person shall have the same force and effect as service upon such unborn person would have had if such person had been living. All proceedings by and against the said guardian ad litem after appointment shall be governed by all provisions of the law applicable to guardians ad litem for living persons.

(5)        Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem for Corporations, Trusts, or Other Entities Not in Existence. - In all actions which involve the construction of wills, trusts, contracts or written instruments, or the determination of the ownership of property or the disposition or distribution of property pursuant to the provisions of a will, trust, contract or written instrument, if such will, trust, contract or written  instrument provides benefits for disposition or distribution  of property to a corporation, a trust, or an entity thereafter to be formed for the purpose of carrying into effect some provision of the said will, trust, contract or written instrument, the court in which said action or special proceeding is pending, upon motion of any of the parties or upon its own motion, may appoint some discreet person guardian ad litem for such corporation, trust or other entity. Service upon the guardian ad litem appointed for such corporation, trust or other entity shall have the same force and effect as service upon such corporation, trust or entity would have had if such corporation, trust or other entity had been in existence. All proceedings by and against the said guardian ad litem after appointment shall be governed by all provisions of the law applicable to guardians ad litem for living persons.

(6)        Repealed by Session Laws 1981, c. 599, s. 1.

(7)        Miscellaneous Provisions. - The provisions of this rule are  in addition to any other remedies or procedures authorized or permitted by law, and it shall not be construed to repeal or to limit the doctrine of virtual representation or any other law or rule of law by which unborn persons or nonexistent corporations, trusts or other entities may be represented in or bound by any judgment or order entered in any action or special proceeding. This rule shall apply to all pending actions and special proceedings to which it may be constitutionally applicable. All judgments and orders heretofore entered in any action in which a guardian or guardians ad litem have been appointed for any unborn person or persons or any nonexistent corporations, trusts or other entities, are hereby validated as of the several dates of entry thereof in the same manner and to the full extent that they would have been valid if this rule had been in effect at the time of the appointment of such guardians ad litem; provided, however, that the provisions of this sentence shall be applicable only in such cases and to the extent to which the application thereof shall not be prevented by any constitutional limitation.

(c)        Guardian ad litem for infants, insane or incompetent persons; appointment procedure. - When a guardian ad litem is appointed to represent an infant or insane or incompetent person, he must be appointed as follows:

(1)        When an infant or insane or incompetent person is plaintiff, the appointment shall be made at any time prior to or at the  time of the commencement of the action, upon the written application of any relative or friend of said infant or insane or incompetent person or by the court on its own motion.

(2)        When an infant is defendant and service under Rule 4(j)(1)a is made upon him the appointment may be made upon the written application of any relative or friend of said infant, or, if no such application is made within 10 days after service of summons, upon the written application of any other party to the action or, at any time by the court on its own motion.

(3)        When an infant or insane or incompetent person is defendant and service can be made upon him only by publication, the appointment may be made upon the written application of any relative or friend of said infant, or upon the written application of any other party to the action, or by the court on its own motion, before completion of publication, whereupon service of the summons with copy of the complaint shall be made forthwith upon said guardian so appointed requiring him to make defense at the same time that the defendant is required to make defense in the notice of publication.

(4)        When an insane or incompetent person is defendant and service by publication is not required, the appointment may be made upon the written application of any relative or friend of said defendant, or upon the written application of any other party to the action, or by the court on its own motion, prior to or at the time of the commencement of the action, and service upon the insane or incompetent defendant may thereupon be dispensed with by order of the court making such appointment.

(d)       Guardian ad litem for persons not ascertained or for persons, trusts or corporations not in being. - When under the terms of a written instrument, or for any other reason, a person or persons who are not in being, or any corporation, trust, or other legal entity which is not in being, may be or may become legally or equitably interested in any property, real or personal, the court in which an action or proceeding of any kind relative to or affecting such property is pending, may, upon the written application of any party to such action or proceeding or of other person interested, appoint a guardian ad litem to represent such person or persons not ascertained or such persons, trusts or corporations not in being.

(e)        Duty of guardian ad litem; effect of judgment or decree where party represented by guardian ad litem. - Any guardian ad litem appointed for any party pursuant to any of the provisions of this rule shall file and serve such pleadings as may be required within the times specified by these rules, unless extension of time is obtained.  After the appointment of a guardian ad litem under any provision of this rule and after the service and filing of such pleadings as may be required by such guardian ad litem, the court may proceed to final judgment, order or decree against any party so represented as effectually and in the same manner as if said party had been under no  legal disability, had been ascertained and in being, and had been present in court after legal notice in the action in which such final  judgment, order or decree is entered. (1967, c. 954, s. 1; 1969, c. 895, ss. 5, 6; 1971, c. 1156, ss. 3, 4; 1973, c. 1199; 1981, c. 599, s. 1; 1987, c. 550, s. 13.)

 

Rule 18. Joinder of claims and remedies.

(a)        Joinder of claims. - A party asserting a claim for relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal or equitable, as he has against an opposing party.

(b)        Joinder of remedies; fraudulent conveyances. - Whenever a claim is one heretofore cognizable only after another claim has been prosecuted to a conclusion, the two claims may be joined in a single action; but the court shall grant relief in that action only in accordance with the relative substantive rights of the parties. In particular, a plaintiff may state a claim for money and a claim to have set aside a conveyance fraudulent as to him, without first having obtained a judgment establishing the claim for money. (1967, c. 954, s. 1; 1969, c. 895, s. 7.)

 

Rule 19. Necessary joinder of parties.

(a)       Necessary joinder. - Subject to the provisions of Rule 23, those who are united in interest must be joined as plaintiffs or defendants; but if the consent of anyone who should have been joined as plaintiff cannot be obtained he may be made a defendant, the reason therefor being stated in the complaint; provided, however, in all cases of joint contracts, a claim may be asserted against all or any number of the persons making such contracts.

(b)       Joinder of parties not united in interest. - The court may determine any claim before it when it can do so without prejudice to the rights of any party or to the rights of others not before the court; but when a complete determination of such claim cannot be made without the presence of other parties, the court shall order such other parties summoned to appear in the action.

(c)       Joinder of parties not united in interest - Names of omitted persons and reasons for nonjoinder to be pleaded. - In any pleading in which relief is asked, the pleader shall set forth the names, if known to him, of persons who ought to be parties if complete relief is to be accorded between those already parties, but who are not joined, and shall state why they are omitted.

(d)       Necessary Joinder of House of Representatives and Senate. - The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, as agents of the State through the General Assembly, must be joined as defendants in any civil action challenging the validity of a North Carolina statute or provision of the North Carolina Constitution under State or federal law.  (1967, c. 954, s. 1; 2017-57, s. 6.7(j).)

 

Rule 20. Permissive joinder of parties.

(a)        Permissive joinder. - All persons may join in one action as plaintiffs if they assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative in respect of or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences and if any question of law or fact common to all parties will arise in the action. All persons may be joined in one action as defendants if there is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative, any right to relief in respect of or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences and if any question of law or fact common to all parties will arise in the action. A plaintiff or defendant need not be interested in obtaining or defending against all the relief demanded. Judgment may be given for one or more of the plaintiffs according to their respective rights to relief, and against one or more defendants according to their respective liabilities.

(b)        Separate trial. - The court shall make such orders as will prevent a party from being embarrassed, delayed, or put to expense by the inclusion of a party against whom he asserts no claim and who asserts no claim against him, and shall order separate trials or make other orders to prevent delay or prejudice. (1967, c. 954, s. 1; 1973, c. 75.)

 

Rule 21. Procedure upon misjoinder and nonjoinder.

Neither misjoinder of parties nor misjoinder of parties and claims is ground for dismissal of an action; but on such terms as are just parties may be dropped or added by order of the court on motion of any party or on its own initiative at any stage of the action. Any  claim against a party may be severed and proceeded with separately. (1967, c. 954, s. 1.)

 

Rule 22. Interpleader.

(a)       Persons having claims against the plaintiff may be joined as defendants and required to interplead when their claims expose or may expose the plaintiff to double or multiple liability. It is not ground for objection to the joinder that the claims of the several claimants or the titles on which their claims depend do not have a common origin or are not identical but are adverse to and independent of one another, or that the plaintiff avers that he is not liable in whole or in part to any or all of the claimants. A defendant exposed to similar liability may obtain such interpleader by way of crossclaim or counterclaim. The provisions of this rule supplement and do not in any way limit the joinder of parties permitted in Rule 20.

(b)       Where funds are subject to competing claims by parties to the action, the court may order the party in possession of the funds either to deposit the funds in an interest bearing account in a federally insured depository institution or a trust institution authorized to do business in this State or to deposit the funds with the clerk. If the funds are deposited in a federally insured depository institution or a trust institution authorized to do business in this State, the court shall specify the type of interest bearing account to be used. Funds deposited with the clerk shall be invested or deposited as provided in G.S. 7A-112 and G.S. 7A-112.1. Upon determination of the action, the judgment shall provide for disbursement of the principal and interest earned on the funds while so deposited.  (1967, c. 954, s. 1; 1989, c. 668, s. 1; 2017-25, s. 1(a).)

 

Rule 23. Class actions.

(a)        Representation. - If persons constituting a class are so numerous as to make it impracticable to bring them all before the court, such of them, one or more, as will fairly insure the adequate representation of all may, on behalf of all, sue or be sued.

(b)        Secondary action by shareholders. - In an action brought to enforce a secondary right on the part of one or more shareholders or members of a corporation or an unincorporated association because the corporation or association refuses to enforce rights which may properly be asserted by it, the complaint shall be verified by oath.

(c)        Dismissal or compromise. - A class action shall not be dismissed or compromised without the approval of the judge. In an action under this rule, notice of a proposed dismissal or compromise shall be given to all members of the class in such manner as the judge directs.

(d)       Tax Class Actions. - In addition to all of the requirements set out in this rule, a class action seeking the refund of a State tax paid due to an alleged unconstitutional statute may be brought and maintained only as provided in G.S. 105-241.18.  (1967, c. 954, s. 1; 2008-107, s. 28.28(a).)

 

Rule 24. Intervention.

(a)       Intervention of right. - Upon timely application anyone shall be permitted to intervene in an action:

(1)       When a statute confers an unconditional right to intervene; or

(2)       When the applicant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action and he is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect that interest, unless the applicant's interest is adequately represented by existing parties.

(b)       Permissive intervention. - Upon timely application anyone may be permitted to intervene in an action.

(1)       When a statute confers a conditional right to intervene; or

(2)       When an applicant's claim or defense and the main action have a question of law or fact in common. When a party to an action relies for ground of claim or defense upon any statute or executive order administered by a federal or State governmental officer or agency or upon any regulation, order, requirement, or agreement issued or made pursuant to the statute or executive order, such officer or agency upon timely application may be permitted to intervene in the action. In exercising its discretion the court shall consider whether the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties.

(c)       Procedure. - A person desiring to intervene shall serve a motion to intervene upon all parties affected thereby. The motion shall state the grounds therefor and shall be accompanied by a pleading setting forth the claim or defense for which intervention is sought. The same procedure shall be followed when a statute gives a right to intervene, except when the statute prescribes a different procedure. Intervention as of right by both the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate pursuant to G.S. 1-72.2 shall be effected upon the filing of a notice of intervention of right in the trial or appellate court in which the matter is pending regardless of the stage of the proceeding.  (1967, c. 954, s. 1; 2017-57, s. 6.7(k).)

 

Rule 25. Substitution of parties upon death, incompetency or transfer of interest; abatement.

(a)        Death. - No action abates by reason of the death of a  party if the cause of action survives. In such case, the court, on motion at any time within the time specified for the presentation of claims in G.S. 28A-19-3, may order the substitution of said party's personal representative or collector and allow the action to be continued by or against the substituted party.

(b)        Insanity or incompetency. - No action abates by reason of the incompetency or insanity of a party. If such incompetency or insanity is adjudicated, the court, on motion at any time within one year after such adjudication, or afterwards on a supplemental complaint, may order that said party be represented by his general guardian or trustee or a guardian ad litem, and, allow the action to be continued. If there is no adjudication, any party may suggest such incompetency or insanity to the court and it shall enter such order in respect thereto as justice may require.

(c)        Abatement ordered unless action continued. - At any time after the death, insanity or incompetency of a party, the court in which an action is pending, upon notice to such person as it directs and upon motion of any party aggrieved, may order that the action be abated, unless it is continued by the proper parties, within a time to be fixed by the court, not less than six nor more than 12 months from the granting of the order.

(d)       Transfer of interest. - In case of any transfer of interest other than by death, the action shall be continued in the name of the  original party; but, upon motion of any party, the court may allow the person to whom the transfer is made to be joined with the original party.

(e)        Death of receiver of corporation. - No action against a receiver of a corporation abates by reason of his death, but, upon suggestion of the facts on the record, it continues against his successor or against the corporation in case a new receiver is not appointed and such successor or the corporation is automatically substituted as a party.

(f)        Public officers; death or separation from office. -

(1)        When a public officer is a party to an action in his official capacity and during its pendency dies, resigns or otherwise ceases to hold office, the action does not abate and his successor is automatically substituted as a party. Proceedings following the substitution shall be in the name of the substituted party, but any misnomer not affecting substantial rights of the parties shall be disregarded. An order of substitution may be entered at any time, but the omission to enter such an order shall not affect the substitution.

(2)        When a public officer sues or is sued in his official capacity, he may be described as a party by his official title rather than by name; but the court may require his name to be added.

(g)        No abatement after verdict. - After a verdict is rendered in any action, the action does not abate by reason of the death of a party, whether or not the cause of action upon which it is based is a type which survives. (1967, c. 954, s. 1; 1977, c. 446, s. 3.)