Back to the Relation Back doctrine

The relation back doctrine enables a plainitff to correct a pleading error by adding a new claim or a new party after the statutory limitations period has expired. The plaintiff must show that 1) both claims arose out of the same conduct, transaction or occurrence, 2) the original defendant and the new defendant are "united in interest," so that the latter could be charged with such notice of the commencement of the action that the new party will not be prejudiced in maintaining a defense, and 3) the new party knew or should have known that, but for a mistake by the plaintiff as to the identity of the proper parties, the action would have been brought against that party as well.

In Tristaino v. Teitler, NYLJ, September 10, 2009, at 27, col. 3, a car accident case involving a defendant who later revealed (after the SOL expired) that he was working for 84 Lumber Company, which was advised of the lawsuit almost 4 years after the accident.

Issue: Did 84 know or should have known that it should have been a named defendant? The plaintiff failed to prove it in this case. The plaintiff even conceded that 84 Lumber was not aware of the accident, much less a lawsuit. Therefore, it had no reason to believe that it should have been a named defendant.

This third prong is a steep burden even in a suit alleging vicarious liability.

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