Flynn v. Campbell – 7/19/2016

August 3, 2016

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that an amended complaint against an insured may relate back to the filing date of a complaint that incorrectly named an insurer.

The parties were involved in a car accident, and the plaintiff was injured.  The day before the two-year statute of limitations period ran and without retaining counsel, the injured driver sued the other driver’s insurance company—not the other driver—alleging that the insurance company had assumed full responsibility for its insured actions.  The insurance company moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Arizona does not allow a direct action against the insurance carrier in this situation.  The injured driver retained counsel, and counsel filed an amended complaint naming the other driver as the defendant.  The newly named driver moved to dismiss the amended complaint arguing that the amendment did not relate back because the injured driver knew the other driver’s identity, and therefore was not “mistake[n] concerning the identity of the proper party” under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 15(c).  Rule 15(c) provides, in part, that an amendment that may otherwise be precluded by the statute of limitations relates back to the timely filed complaint if the party to be brought into the suit knew or should have known, that but for a factual mistake concerning the party’s identity, the original action would have been brought against the party.  The superior court granted the motion and the injured driver appealed.  The Court of Appeals reversed, explaining that a plaintiff may be mistaken concerning the identity of the proper party even if the plaintiff knows of the other party’s existence because the plaintiff may be mistaken about the other party’s status or the party’s role in the “conduct, transaction, or occurrence” giving rise to the plaintiff’s claims.  Here, the injured party was mistaken about the other driver’s role because the injured party pled that the insurer had assumed full responsibility for the driver’s actions.  Given this mistake, the Court held that the injured party’s amended pleading related back under Rule 15(c). 

Judge Norris authored the opinion; Presiding Judge Winthrop and Judge Jones concurred.