Jerry Maggie, a 46 year old bricklayer died after a fall while working at a construction project. Maggie v. RAS Development, 949 N.E.2d 731 (Ill. App. 1st 2011). His estate brought a negligence lawsuit against RAS Wolfgram, one of the entities named in the complaint. Wolfgram’s answer volunteered that it was the general contractor (GC). However, a year later Wolfgram stated in an interrogatory answer that it actually hired RAS Development as the GC.
After the contract between RAS Wolfgram and RAS Development surfaced 4 years after the accident and outside of the limitation period, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed RAS Wolfgram and added RAS Development as the general contractor to the complaint. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury returned a $3.2 million dollar verdict againt RAS Development. RAS Development appealed and argued that trail court erred in denying its motion to dismiss on the grounds that the amended complaint was beyond the statute of limitations and that it did not relate back to the original complaint.
The First District Illinois Appellate Court affirmed and held that the relation back doctrine applied. In a case of misnomer or mistaken identity, the relation back doctrine would automatically apply. Relation back depends on what the added party knew or should have known, not on the amending party’s knowledge or its timeliness. Citing Krupskie v. Costa Crociere, 130 S. Ct. 2485 (2010). If a complaint intends to sue a liable party not named, and the unnamed party knows or should know that it was not named because of the plaintiff’s misunderstanding, then it is case of mistaken identity. Here, like Krupskie, the complaint intended to sue the entities that “owned or were in charge of the erection, construction, repairs, alteration, removal and/or brick laying…,” and RAS Development knew or should have known of the plaintiff’s mistake.
Once mistaken identity is established, a complaint amended outside the statute of limitations relates back if three conditions are met. The court found all three satisfied. First, the court found the original complaint was filed within the applicable limitation period. Second, the amended complaint grew out of the same occurrence stated in the original complaint. Third, the court held that RAS Development received timely notice of the commencement of the action. It was aware at least 15 months prior to the expiration of the limitations period that the plaintiff intended to sue the general contactor and was, therefore, not prejudiced in maintaining its defense.