Richardson v. All Services Unlimited, Inc. (12/14/2017)

January 9, 2018

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that amended complaint adding an additional party relates back to original complaint for purposes of Rule 15(c) where additional party knew or should have known that action would have been asserted against it but for mistake.

Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) provides that an amendment changing a party against whom a claim is asserted relates back to the original complaint where, among other requirements, the new defendant knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it but for a mistake concerning the proper party.  An ironworker asserted negligence claims against a repair and towing company for injuries suffered while working on the company’s property.  The ironworker learned—after the two-year statute of limitations had expired—that the repair and towing company hired a general contractor for the project on which the ironworker was injured, and he amended his complaint to add the general contractor as an additional defendant.  The trial court granted the general contractor’s motion for summary judgment to dismiss the ironworker’s negligence claim as untimely, holding that the ironworker’s mistake regarding the addition of a party did not satisfy Rule 15(c).

The ironworker appealed, arguing that the amended complaint related back because the general contractor would have been named as a defendant absent his mistake that the repair and towing company was both property owner and project supervisor.  The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed.  The Court also rejected the general contractor’s claim that a mistake under Rule 15(c) does not occur where plaintiff seeks to add an additional defendant, rather than substituting one defendant for another.  Instead, an amended complaint may timely add a defendant where that defendant knew or should have known that the plaintiff mistakenly failed to name the defendant in the original complaint.

Judge Howe authored the opinion; Judges Jones and Kessler concurred.