Alabama Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Claim Based on a Failure to Properly Name and Serve Defendant

In a recent personal injury case before the Alabama Supreme Court, a plaintiff filed a lawsuit against a hospital after allegedly being injured by a patient while she was also a patient in a psychiatric unit at a hospital. The defendant, “Brookwood Health Services Inc.,” claimed that it was not properly served and that the suit was untimely because it was filed beyond the statute of limitations. Under the Alabama Medical Liability Act, a two-year statute of limitations applied in the case.

Legal News GavelThe patient filed a complaint in the case on October 8, 2016 but named “Brookwood Baptist Health LLC” as fictitiously named defendants. The patient filed an amended complaint on June 3, 2017 naming instead “Brookwood Baptist Health Services” and requested that “Brookwood Health Services Inc.” be served.

The hospital argued that the two-year statute of limitations expired on October 10, 2016, and that the amended complaint did not “relate back” to the original filing because the patient did not satisfy the requirements of Rule 15(c)(3) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.

Amending a Complaint to Change a Party’s Name

After a plaintiff files a complaint, the plaintiff may be able to later amend the complaint. This is fairly common, as plaintiffs routinely gather more details about the case as it progresses. Under Rule 15(c) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff’s amendment to a complaint will generally “relate back” to the date of the original complaint if “the claim or defense asserted in the amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading.”

The amendment will also generally relate back to the original date if the amendment “changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted” if it is done within the statute of limitations or within 120 days of the filing of the complaint. In this case, the newly named party must have received sufficient notice so as not to be prejudiced in defending itself, and the party must have known, or should have known, that the action would have been filed but for the mistake concerning the party’s identity.

The Court’s Decision

The Alabama Supreme Court explained that in this case, the defendant did not receive notice of the complaint until at least February 13, 2017 when it was properly served. That was 128 days after the original complaint was filed, and thus was not within the required 120 days. Even assuming there was an “identity of interests” between the named party in the original complaint and the name’s real name, it did not receive notice within 120 days. Therefore, the claim was barred by the two-year statute of limitations.

Contact an Alabama Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been injured in an accident, you may be able to recover financial damages for your injuries. The Reeves Law Firm can help you seek justice for your loss of mobility or economic income. We understand how important it is that you obtain the compensation to which you may be entitled. We handle all types of Alabama personal injury cases and can help you recover fair compensation for your injuries, lost wages, or impaired lifestyle. Whether you are injured on the road, on the job, or in another area of life, contact the Reeves Law Firm. Call us at 256-355-3311 for a free and confidential consultation.

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Court Rejects Defendant’s Defense in Recent Dog Park Accident Case, Alabama Injury Lawyer Blog, April 30, 2018