Sunday, February 19, 2012

Monroe County Court Denies Motion To Amend Complaint to Add Correct Defendant After Expiration of Statute of Limitations

In her December 20, 2011 decision in the case of Hilbert v. Maula, PICS Case No. 12-0284 (C.P. Monroe Co. Dec. 20, 2011 Wallach Miller, J.), Monroe County Judge Linda Wallach Miller denied a Plaintiff’s request to amend a caption to add a new party after the expiration of the statute of limitations.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff sustained injuries while fighting a fire a vacant commercial building. The Plaintiff filed suit against various Defendants, including an entity that the Plaintiff believed owned the property in question.

When discovery later revealed that the building was owned by another entity, the Plaintiff filed a Motion, after the expiration of the statute of limitations, to amend the caption to join that other entity as a Defendant.

In that motion, the Plaintiff asserted that the Defendant concealed the true identity of the owner of the premises and, as such, the amendment should be permitted. The Plaintiff also stated that he had relied upon the Fire Marshall’s report which identified the wrong entity as the owner of the building. The Plaintiffs additionally alleged that one of the Defendants gave incorrect information as to identity of the owner.

The Court, however, found that the Plaintiff had failed to demonstrate how one of the original Defendants had actively concealed the true identity of the owner of the building. Judge Miller also noted that Plaintiffs have a duty to use all reasonable diligence to properly inform themselves of the facts and circumstances upon which to commence a lawsuit within the prescribed period of time.  In denying the motion at issue, Judge Miller pointed to the rule of law holding that an alleged lack of knowledge, mistake, or misunderstanding do not serve to toll the statute of limitations.

Accordingly, the court denied the Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend. In so ruling, the Court pointed out that a search of the public tax records and recorder of deeds records would have disclosed the identity of the proper owner of the premises in question.

I do not have a copy of this decision but it can be ordered from the Pennsylvania Law Weekly by giving the above PICS Case Number in the citation noted and calling 1-800-276-7487 to request the same in exchange for a small fee.

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