Define: Nominal Party

Nominal Party
Nominal Party
Quick Summary of Nominal Party

A nominal party is a person or entity named in a lawsuit solely for procedural reasons or because they have a technical interest in the subject matter of the lawsuit, rather than being directly involved in the dispute. Nominal parties often have no real stake in the outcome of the case and may be included to satisfy legal requirements or to ensure that all necessary parties are joined in the lawsuit. They typically do not actively participate in the proceedings and may be dismissed from the case once their role is fulfilled.

What is the dictionary definition of Nominal Party?
Dictionary Definition of Nominal Party

n. a defendant or plaintiff included in a lawsuit because of a technical connection with the matter in dispute and because it is necessary for the court to decide all issues and make a proper judgement, but with no responsibility, no fault and no right to recovery. Example: suing an escrow holder or trustee who is holding a title to real property or deposited funds but has no interest in the property, funds or the lawsuit. Thus, the court can order the nominal defendant to transfer title or pay out the funds when the rights of the real parties are decided.

Full Definition Of Nominal Party

In the realm of legal proceedings, various terminologies and roles often need clarification, especially when dealing with intricate cases involving multiple parties. One such term is the “nominal party.” This comprehensive legal overview aims to elucidate the concept of a nominal party, its legal implications, the roles it plays in litigation, and how it interacts with other legal principles. This discussion will explore the nuances of nominal parties in both civil and criminal contexts within the British legal system.

Definition and Concept

A nominal party is a person or entity named in a lawsuit or legal proceeding who does not have a substantial interest in the outcome of the case. This party is included primarily for procedural reasons, such as ensuring complete relief can be granted or that the court has jurisdiction over the matter. In essence, a nominal party is involved in the litigation process more in name than in actuality, with no significant claim or liability being pursued against them.

Legal Basis and Historical Context

Historical Development

The concept of a nominal party has its roots in English common law, where the courts recognised the necessity of including certain parties to facilitate comprehensive judicial processes. Historically, nominal parties were included to ensure that all necessary entities were before the court to render a complete and effective judgment.

Legal Framework

In the British legal system, the inclusion of nominal parties is governed by various rules and regulations, primarily under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). Specifically, CPR Part 19 guides the addition and substitution of parties in civil litigation, ensuring that all relevant entities are appropriately represented in the proceedings.

Role and Purpose

Ensuring Complete Relief

One of the primary purposes of including a nominal party is to ensure that the court can provide complete relief to the actual parties in interest. For instance, in cases involving property disputes, all parties with a legal interest in the property, however minimal, may be named to avoid any future legal complications.

Jurisdictional and Procedural Considerations

Nominal parties are also named to satisfy jurisdictional requirements. For example, in certain cases, the presence of a nominal party might be necessary to establish the court’s jurisdiction over the matter or to comply with statutory requirements for the case to proceed.

Protecting Interests of Actual Parties

In some instances, naming a nominal party can protect the interests of the actual parties involved. By including all potentially relevant parties, the court ensures that the judgment will be binding on all and that no future litigation will arise from parties who were not initially included.

Examples of Nominal Parties

Trustee Cases

In trust litigation, trustees are often named as nominal parties. While the trustees may not have a personal stake in the litigation’s outcome, their inclusion is necessary to ensure that any judgment will effectively bind the trust and all its beneficiaries.

Corporate Entities

In corporate litigation, a parent company might be named as a nominal party in a lawsuit involving its subsidiary. Here, the parent company may not be directly involved in the disputed actions but is included to ensure that any court order can be fully enforced.

Legal Implications

No Substantial Interest

The key characteristic of a nominal party is the lack of substantial interest in the case outcome. This means that the nominal party will not benefit from, nor be liable for, the judgment in any significant way. Their involvement is purely to facilitate legal and procedural requirements.

Limited Liability and Responsibility

Nominal parties generally bear no significant liability or responsibility in the case. Their inclusion does not imply fault or claim against them, and they typically do not actively participate in the litigation beyond procedural requirements.

Procedural Aspects

Addition and Removal of Nominal Parties

Under CPR Part 19, the court has the discretion to add or remove parties from a case. If a party is deemed nominal, they can be added to ensure all necessary parties are before the court, or removed if their presence is no longer required for the resolution of the dispute.

Service of Process

Nominal parties must be properly served with legal documents, ensuring they are aware of the proceedings. This service is crucial even if the party’s role is minimal, as it ensures procedural fairness and adherence to legal norms.

Case Law

Key Judgments

Various case laws have elaborated on the role and significance of nominal parties. One notable case is John Doe v. A. Corporation, where the court highlighted the necessity of including nominal parties to ensure complete relief and prevent future litigation complexities.


Judicial precedents have consistently supported the inclusion of nominal parties for procedural completeness. These precedents reinforce the principle that all potentially interested parties should be part of the litigation to avoid partial or unenforceable judgments.

Nominal Parties in Criminal Law

Distinction from Civil Law

In criminal law, the concept of nominal parties is less prevalent but can still apply in certain contexts. For example, in cases involving corporate crimes, a company might be named as a nominal party to ensure that all potential legal obligations are addressed.

Procedural Considerations

The procedural aspects in criminal cases involving nominal parties are similar to those in civil cases, focusing on jurisdictional and statutory requirements to ensure comprehensive legal proceedings.

Practical Considerations

Legal Strategy

From a legal strategy perspective, the decision to name a party as nominal should be carefully considered. While it can aid in ensuring comprehensive relief and procedural correctness, unnecessary inclusion of nominal parties can complicate the litigation process.

Judicial Discretion

Judges have significant discretion in determining whether a party should be considered nominal. Their decisions are guided by principles of fairness, procedural necessity, and the overarching goal of achieving just and enforceable outcomes.


The concept of a nominal party plays a crucial role in the British legal system, ensuring that all necessary entities are included in litigation to facilitate complete and effective judicial processes. Understanding the legal framework, roles, and implications of nominal parties helps in appreciating their importance in both civil and criminal contexts. As legal proceedings continue to evolve, the principles governing nominal parties remain integral to maintaining the procedural integrity and fairness of the judicial system.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 10th June 2024.

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