The Arizona Supreme Court recently handed down an opinion on when and to what degree an amended complaint relates back to the original complaint.
Phoenix, AZ -- (ReleaseWire) -- 01/02/2007 --The Arizona Supreme Court recently interpreted Rule 15(c) of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. In so interpreting, the Supreme Court intended to end the disparate conclusions to which lower courts were coming as they ruled on issues of amended complaints and relating back certain filings to previous filing dates.
In this case, Tyman v. Hintz Concrete et al, CV-06-0008-PR, the plaintiff was injured at a construction site. Tyman v. Hintz Concrete et al 2. The plaintiff’s attorney, unfortunately, had difficulty determining who was responsible for the construction site and initially provided notice to the City of Surprise of the intent to sue. Id. Upon discovering that the City of Surprise was not responsible for the site, the plaintiff searched for the appropriate party to sue. Id. at 2-3. With incorrect parties listed on her complaint, the plaintiff was forced to file suit immediately before the statute of limitations ran. Id. 3.
After filing her initial complaint in the Maricopa County Superior Court and subsequent to Arizona’s two-year statute of limitations, the plaintiff discovered and added the defendants actually responsible for the construction site where she was injured. Id. The defendants moved for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations, which the Maricopa County Superior Court granted and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed. Id. Plaintiff appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court who upheld the lower courts’ decisions. Id.
In agreeing with the lower courts’ ultimate rulings, the Arizona Supreme Court determined that the Maricopa County Superior Court judge’s reasoning was most in line with the Supreme Court’s thinking. Id. at 6-9, 11. Although the Court of Appeals also ruled for the defendants, the Supreme Court found fault with its logic. Id. at 7-9. Thus, the Arizona Supreme Court’s more closely approximates the Maricopa County Superior Court’s holding, although the Supreme Court also found some of the trial court’s reasoning faulty. Id. 7.
Specifically, the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruled that the type of mistake Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) anticipates had not occurred in Ms. Tyman’s case. Rule 15’s mistake provision extends to certain types of identification errors but not to situations where a party absolutely does not know who the proper defendant might be. Id. at 10-15.
Thus, Ms. Tyman’s amended complaint was filed too late, her case remained dismissed and she was denied a chance at redress against the defendants.