Rule 15(c) Mistake: The Supreme Court in Krupski Seeks to Resolve a Judicial Thicket

24 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2011 Last revised: 20 Dec 2011

Robert A. Lusardi

Western New England University School of Law

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

While recognizing the importance of a statute of limitations, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 acts as a counterbalance to such statutes by allowing a plaintiff to freely amend a complaint to assert additional claims, or to name new or additional parties, and have those amendments relate back to a complaint filed within the statute of limitations even though that statute has run.

There have been interpretive problems, particularly with the language of Rule 15 (c)(1)(C)(ii). These problems arise when the "amendment changes the party or the naming of the party" after the statutory period and the conditions of Rule 15(c)(1)(C) are applied. Courts have often been very cautious in interpreting the rule because of a reluctance to see a person drawn into litigation after the statute of limitations has run out. The text of the rule addresses this problem by allowing such relation back only when the claim is sufficiently related to the original pleading and the defendant "received such notice of the action so that it [would] not be prejudiced in defending on the merits and knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity." This Article focuses on the phrase "knew or should have known ... but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity," as set out in Rule 15(c)(1)(C)(ii). It examines how differing interpretations of that phrase by courts of appeals have affected the application of the rule in four related but somewhat different situations, which has led to the Supreme Court taking up the issue.

This Article begins by examining the text and purpose of the rule. It then analyzes the cases that show the competing views as to the meaning of Rule 15(c)(1)(C)(ii) and evaluates these views in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., in which the Court sought "to resolve tension among the Circuits over the breadth of Rule 15(c)(1)(C)(ii)."

Keywords: Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C)(ii), Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., civil procedure, mistake, party's identity

Suggested Citation

Lusardi, Robert A., Rule 15(c) Mistake: The Supreme Court in Krupski Seeks to Resolve a Judicial Thicket (2011). University of Louisville Law Review, Vol. 49, p. 317, 2011; Western New England University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1971291

Robert A. Lusardi (Contact Author)

Western New England University School of Law ( email )

1215 Wilbraham Road
Springfield, MA 01119
United States

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