Thursday, March 30, 2017

Statute of Limitations Bars Claim Where Plaintiff Sued Wrong Defendant

In a recent non-precedential decision in the case of Adams v. Reese, No. 927 WDA 2016 (Pa. Super. March 7, 2017 Bowes, Olson, and Strassburger, J.J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of a Defendant in a motor vehicle accident matter in which the Plaintiff sued the wrong person as the alleged Defendant driver.  

According to the Opinion, this matter arose out of a motor vehicle accident during which the Defendant’s vehicle was driven by the Reeses’ son, Dane M. Reese.  However, when the Plaintiff’s filed a Complaint, they named as Defendants, David A. Reese (the father) and Karen C. Reese (the mother).   The Complaint stated that David (the father) was the driver and that both David and Karen were negligent in the operation/ownership of the vehicle.  

The Defendants filed an Answer and New Matter asserting that David was not the operator of the vehicle; rather it was the son, Dane, who was not named as a Defendant, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident.  

Thereafter, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1033.  In their motion, the Plaintiffs alleged that a “typographical error” had mistakenly listed the wrong first name of the driver of the vehicle.   The defense opposed this  motion, asserting that the Plaintiffs were prohibited from amending their Complaint to add a new party after the expiration of the statute of limitations.   This Motion to Amend filed by the Plaintiff was denied by the trial court.

Thereafter, the Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which was granted.   This entry of summary judgment was appealed in this non-precedential decision in the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Citing to the prior precedential case of Saracina v. Cotoia, 208 A.2d 764, 766 (Pa. 1965), the Adams court noted that the Plaintiff listed a completely different person as a Defendant and, therefore, allowing the Complaint to be amended after the statute of limitations had run, would be permitting the Plaintiff to add a new and distinct party beyond the statute of limitations in contravention to Pennsylvania case law.  

The Superior Court stated that, although they were cognizant that the allegations set forth in the Complaint suggested that the Plaintiff did intend to sue the son, i.e., the operator of the vehicle, and not the father, the court in Adams, citing Saracina, 208 A.2d at 766, stated that the case law was clear that, under these very circumstances, an amendment is not permitted.

As such, the court in Adams affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment on the basis of the statute of limitations defense.  

Anyone wishing to review this non-precedential decision by the Superior Court in Adams may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Paul Oven of the Moosic, Pennsylvania office of Dougherty, Leventhal & Price for bringing this case to my attention.

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