The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has adopted new Pa.R.C.P. 2005 governing the naming of unknown, or John/Jane Doe, defendants in a complaint. Currently, the Rules of Civil Procedure are silent as to the use of Doe defendants in litigation. Rule 2005 is intended to standardize the procedure in which to assert a cause of action against a Doe defendant. The Rule requires a complaint using a Doe to describe the defendant and its liability producing conduct with sufficient specificity to permit identification in all but the unknown defendant’s name. The Rule imposes a duty on the plaintiff or joining party to exercise due diligence in identifying the actual name of the defendant both before and after the complaint is filed. While sufficient description of an unknown defendant is typically fact specific to a particular case, it may include the physical characteristics of an unknown defendant, the position or title of the job performed by the unknown defendant, the alleged conduct of the unknown defendant, and how the unknown defendant is connected to the accident. The Explanatory Comment to the Rule goes on to say that it is important to note that designating a Doe defendant as a mere placeholder or as used as a class of defendants is not a valid use of Rule 2005. The Rule is not intended to create a practice of naming Doe defendants as a catchall category in the event a probable defendant is not named in a complaint. The new Rule takes effect April1, 2019.
Pa.R.C.P. 1018 and 1033 are also amended to comport with new Rule 205.