Empty chair (law)
The empty chair is a non-party to a civil lawsuit who might also be blamed for the damages. To the defendant, the advantage of shifting blame to the empty chair, a strategy called the empty chair defense, is that the empty chair isn't there to defend itself, forcing the plaintiff to defend it. This is why plaintiffs try to name all possible parties that might be blamed when filing a lawsuit. In interrogatories, plaintiffs will typically follow up by asking defendants to confirm that everyone who might be blamed has been named as a defendant. Sometimes, that's not possible, for example, if a party is immune to suit.
- Nancy A. Costello. "NOTE: Allocating Fault to the Empty Chair: Tort Reform or Deform?". University of Detroit Mercy Law Review (Winter 1999).
Allocating blame to a nonparty, the "empty chair" that cannot be sued or is immune from direct liability, is a new form of tort law that has been adopted by many states, including Michigan, 8 often forcing the victims of negligence to bear a greater cost of their injuries.