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New Mexico Plaintiff Unable to Add Defendant’s Employer to Injury Case Following Expiration of Statute of Limitations

Sometimes multiple parties can be held liable for the payment of damages in a single New Mexico truck accident case.  A recent case concerns the ability of a plaintiff to name a new party as a defendant in an amended complaint filed years after the initial complaint was filed, and following the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Allegedly, in 2015, a back seat passenger in a truck sustained injuries after the truck was struck by another vehicle.  In 2017, the injured passenger brought a lawsuit in New Mexico state court against the driver of the vehicle that collided with the truck.  He also sued the company that insured the vehicle that collided with the truck.  The insurance company removed the lawsuit to federal court.  The plaintiff then filed an amended complaint in 2019, naming as a defendant the employer of the driver of the vehicle that had collided with the truck in which the plaintiff had been traveling at the time of the accident.

The employer responded by filing a motion to dismiss, asserting that the court should dismiss the employer from the lawsuit because the claims against the employer were barred under New Mexico’s applicable three-year statute of limitations.  The plaintiff argued in response to the motion to dismiss that his addition of the employer as a defendant was timely under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 because the claims related back to the claims in the original complaint.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) governs when amended pleadings are considered to relate back to the date of the original pleading for the purposes of preserving the statute of limitations.  The Rule sets forth four requirements that are to be satisfied before there can be a relation back.  First, the claim(s) must arise out of the conduct set forth in the original pleading.  Second, the added party must have received adequate notice so that it will not be prejudiced in maintaining its defense.  Third, it must be shown that the added party knew or should have known that, but for a mistake in identifying the correct party, the action would have been brought against it.  Fourth, the second and third requirements must be satisfied within the prescribed limitation period.

In this case, the defendant conceded that the first requirement was met because the complaint naming the employer was comprised of claims that were the subject of the earlier filed complaint.  According to the court, the plaintiff did not address the second requirement, receipt of notice of the claims by the defendant sufficient to avoid prejudice.  With respect to the third requirement, the plaintiff asserted that the defendant knew or should have known about the potential claims against it.  The defendant argued that it did not know.  The court sided with the defendant, explaining that there was no indication in the plaintiff’s original complaint or the response to the motion to dismiss demonstrating that the employer received notice, or that it reasonably should have understood that the plaintiff intended to file an amended complaint to include claims against it.  The court therefore granted the employer’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the plaintiff had not satisfied the requirement for allowing his amended complaint naming the employer to relate back to the time of the filing of the original complaint, which had not named the employer.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident, there may be grounds for a recovery of monetary damages.  In some situations, multiple parties are liable for compensating an injured party for damages resulting from an accident.  Collecting damages can help people who have been injured and their families cover out-of-pocket costs, including medical bills.  An award of damages can also help compensate people for lost wages.  To understand more about your case and how it can be pursued to maximize your financial recovery, call New Mexico truck accident lawyer Matthew Vance at the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C.  We provide a free consultation and can be reached at (505) 242-6267 or online.