When the plaintiff’s claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as a timely filed third-party complaint.
The Florida State Supreme Court recently that a plaintiff can file claims against third-party defendants after the expiration of the Statute of Limitations, provided the third-party plaintiff filed its third-party complaint against the defendant/third-party defendants before the expiration of the Statute of Limitations and the plaintiff’s claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence as the third-party complaint.
In Caduceus Prop., LLC, [hotlink] the owner of a building sued its architect due to a malfunctioning HVAC system. The Architect, in turn, sued its sub-consultant and the principal of the sub-consultant who designed the HVAC system. Afterthe Statute of Limitations on the owner’s claims had expired, the owner filed direct claims against the sub-consultant and the individual principal. The trial court denied the sub-consultant’s motion to dismiss based on the Statute of Limitations. At trial, the owner and architect obtained a judgment against the sub-consultant and the sub-consultant appealed, arguing the Statute of Limitations had expired on the owner’s claims.
On appeal, the First District agreed with the sub-consultant that the Owner’s claims was barred by the Statute of Limitations because “[r]elation back should only be permitted where there is a mistake or misnomer in identifying a party defendant, not a mistake in failing to add a party defendant.” Slip Op. at 2 (quoting Graney v. Caduceus Properties, LLC, 91 So. 3d 220, 228 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012). The Florida Supreme Court disagreed and reversed the First District:
Generally, Florida has a judicial policy of freely permitting amendments to the pleadings so that cases may be resolved on the merits, as long as the amendments do not prejudice or disadvantage the opposing party. Permitting the relation back of pleadings under rule 1.190(c) when the claims “arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth” in the third-party complaint is consistent with this judicial policy. Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.190(c). As rule 1.190(a) sets forth, “[l]eave of court [to amend] shall be given freely when justice so requires.” Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.190(a). Further, subsection (e), governing “Amendments Generally,” provides that “[a]t any time in furtherance of justice, upon such terms as may be just, the court may permit” an amended pleading. Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.190(e).
The Court observed that applying the relation-back doctrine under these circumstances further serves the purpose underlying the Statute of Limitations in the first place:
[T]he purpose underlying statutes of limitations — namely, preventing lack of notice and prejudice to the defendant — is not implicated where the plaintiff’s amended complaint relates back to the filing of the third-party complaint, as long as the third party was brought into the suit prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations and the plaintiff’s claims concern the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence at issue in the third-party complaint.
(Slip Op. at 3). Thus, according to the Court,
in determining whether a time-barred amendment to a pleading that names a third-party defendant as a party defendant relates back to the date of the third-party complaint, the key inquiry is whether the third-party complaint put the third-party defendant on notice of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence from which the plaintiff’s claims against that defendant arose. If so, then the statute of limitations should not bar such claims. Therefore, in a case in which the third-party complaint puts the third-party defendant on notice of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence from which the plaintiff’s claims arose, and the third-party defendant is already a party to the lawsuit when the plaintiff seeks to name the third-party defendant as a party defendant, the plaintiff’s amended complaint naming the third-party defendant as a party defendant should relate back to the timely filed third-party complaint.