Later-Filed Claims May Be Barred When “Relation Back Rule” Doesn’t Apply

In the recent case of Bracy v. McDonald, the Tennessee Court of Appeals provide a refresher of how the “relation back rule” works under Tn. R. Civ. P. 15.03.

Plaintiff Martin W. Bracey, Jr. was involved in a very serious car collision with a tractor trailer that occurred on August 31, 2012. Bracey suffered horrible injuries, including the loss of one arm, and subsequently filed a lawsuit on July 10, 2013 naming the driver of the tractor trailer, Otis McDonald, and Conard Transportation, Inc. The complaint alleged negligence on behalf of the driver and asserted that Conard was liable under a theory of respondeat superior.

On March 25, 2014, Plaintiff amended his complaint (First Amended Complaint) to add additional defendants, described in the court’s opinion as Employee Solutions, LLC and the Ingram Defendants. In the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleged that McDonald was driving the tractor trailer pursuant to an agreement among the named defendants and that, accordingly, McDonald was an agent or employee of each of the defendants.

Employee Solutions and the Ingram Defendants both moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint on the grounds that the lawsuits against them were time-barred. Shortly after the filing of these motions, Plaintiff moved to amend in order to assert that Plaintiff could not have reasonably discovered the identity of the Employee Solutions and the Ingram Defendants as necessary parties until discovery was underway. Plaintiff further asserted that their involvement was fraudulently concealed.

Because the lawsuit against Employee Solutions and the Ingram Defendants was filed more than a year after the injury occurred, the lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations unless the First Amended Complaint related back to the original complaint pursuant to Rule 15.03 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. [Read more…]