Court Affirms Judgment Against Plaintiff for Failing to Properly Join and Name All Defendants Before Statute of Limitations Expired

The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently published an opinion affirming a judge’s decision to grant summary judgment to a defendant condominium association in a slip-and-fall lawsuit that was filed by a woman who was injured outside the condominium. The condo consisted of two connected units owned jointly by two couples and an unincorporated association they had formed. According to the appellate opinion, the plaintiff intended to sue both the individual owners and the association, but she failed to properly name the association in her original complaint. The plaintiff eventually amended the complaint with all of the correct parties over one year after the statute of limitations for her claim had expired.

The Plaintiff Claims Confusion with True Identity of the Defendant Prevented Her Timely Filing

In seeking leave to file the amended complaint, the plaintiff explained that she intended to sue the association as well as the owners, but her investigation was unable to determine the actual organization holding ownership of the complex when the original complaint was filed. The plaintiff used a fictitious name (XYZ Condo Association) until she could file an amended complaint with the actual party name included. Since she sought to amend the complaint over three years from the date of her injury, she requested that the statute of limitations be extended to allow the amended complaint to proceed as if it were filed when the initial complaint against XYZ Condo Association was filed.

The Plaintiff Is Permitted to Amend Her Complaint, But the Defendant Is Granted Summary Judgment

The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint but then granted a defense motion to dismiss all claims against the condo association as time-barred. The court ruled that the plaintiff’s attempt to extend the statute of limitations failed because her own records showed that she possessed knowledge of the actual name of the condo association at the time the original complaint was filed but failed to provide the name in the complaint.

Although it appears that the plaintiff (or her counsel) was genuinely confused about who (or what) to sue, neither the trial court nor the state court of appeals was sympathetic, ruling that fictitious names such as XYZ Co. or Jane Doe can be used to toll a statute of limitations against an unnamed defendant only in the event that the plaintiff actually does not know the name of the party at the time the case was filed. It is unclear why the plaintiff did not name the defendant properly in the initial complaint, but the mistake will cost her the ability to recover compensation from the condo association.

Can the Statute of Limitations Be Extended in Florida Negligence Claims?

Florida Statutes 2016 Section 95.11(3)(a) sets the statute of limitations for negligence claims in Florida to expire four years after an injury occurs, unless there is a claim of professional malpractice or wrongful death, which is subject to a shorter limitations period. In some cases, the statute of limitations can, or even must, be extended by a court if the plaintiff is so entitled.

In cases in which an injury or act of negligence was not (and reasonably could not have been) discovered before the limitations period had expired, an extension of the statute of limitations may be appropriate. Furthermore, in cases in which someone has committed fraud or otherwise intentionally misrepresented facts to the plaintiff in order to prevent them from filing the complaint on time, the statute of limitations may be extended.

Miami Negligence and Personal Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a negligent act or a dangerous condition on another party’s property, contact a South Florida personal injury attorney with the knowledge and experience to properly evaluate your claim and competently manage your case. The qualified South Florida negligence attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have experience working with tight deadlines in difficult cases. If you fear that it’s too late for you to make a claim, an exception may apply. There’s no risk or cost for a consultation with an attorney at one of our offices or over the phone. The dedicated attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank understand the procedural requirements of initiating and winning premises liability and other negligence cases. Call our office at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Rejection of Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Case Affirmed by Appellate Court on Review, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 28, 2016.

School Authorities Received Multiple Complaints About Bus Driver Prior to Tragic Fatal Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 6, 2016.

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