Superior Crt of California defendants: 'Does 1 through 100'

I saw a Californian Complaint this morning. Amongst an array of other defendants, also named are “Does 1 through 100”.

I take it this is “Does” as in John Doe.

I suspect also that this is some sort of catchall practice to allow for some sort of procedural quirk.

What’s the dope, US legal Dopers?

(As some of you may know, I’m an Australian lawyer, so you can get all technical with me, I won’ t mind).

Actually I’ve now found a missing page of the Complaint and it is clear that the “Does” are unnamed employees of one of the Defendants. Those unnamed employees will (allegedly) be subsequently discovered to have been negligent and then be named.

In this jurisdiction you would add such people in when you find them. Why name them before you even know they exist? Is there some procedural advantage or what?

First of all: standard dislcaimer. By posting in this thread, I am answering a general abstract question about California law. I am not offering Princhester or ANYONE ELSE legal advice about how to draft or respond to a complaint under California law or ANY OTHER SUBJECT. If anyone’s interest in this subject is based on anything other than idle curiosity, he, she, it, you should contact an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Now, with that said, Princhester, under the Section 474 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, online here a plaintiff can file an action against defendants even if the names of those defendants are unknown:

full text of this section available here
The advantage of doing this is

  1. you may be able to toll any applicable statute of limitations
  2. if, during the discovery phase of the case, you do determine the identities of other defendants, you can bring them into the case, rather than having to file a separate action against them.

It is fairly common to see a complaint with up to 100 doe defendants. It doesn’t cost you anything to add doe defendants, and they are just a convenient placeholder until you can determine the names of other parties who may be liable.


I don’t think that 2/ would be any advantage here. You’d have as much entitlement to join someone into an action here if you later needed to whether you did or didn’t insert a “John Doe” into the action in the first place.

I’m less sure as to whether the “John Doe” practice would assist with the Statute of Limitations here. I suspect not.

Interesting. Thanks Constantine.