Sunday, December 31, 2006

Court Rules on Statute of Limitations issue Under Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure

By Carrie Wilcox, Esq.

The Arizona Supreme Court recently interpreted Rule 15(c) of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. In so interpreting, the Supreme Court intended to end the disparate conclusions to which lower courts were coming as they ruled on issues of amended complaints and relating back certain filings to previous filing dates.

In this case, Tyman v. Hintz Concrete et al, CV-06-0008-PR, the plaintiff was injured at a construction site. Tyman v. Hintz Concrete et al 2. The plaintiff’s attorney, unfortunately, had difficulty determining who was responsible for the construction site and initially provided notice to the City of Surprise of the intent to sue. Id. Upon discovering that the City of Surprise was not responsible for the site, the plaintiff searched for the appropriate party to sue. Id. at 2-3. With incorrect parties listed on her complaint, the plaintiff was forced to file suit immediately before the statute of limitations ran. Id. 3.

After filing her initial complaint in the Maricopa County Superior Court and subsequent to Arizona’s two-year statute of limitations, the plaintiff discovered and added the defendants actually responsible for the construction site where she was injured. Id. The defendants moved for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations, which the Maricopa County Superior Court granted and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed. Id. Plaintiff appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court who upheld the lower courts’ decisions. Id.

In agreeing with the lower courts’ ultimate rulings, the Arizona Supreme Court determined that the Maricopa County Superior Court judge’s reasoning was most in line with the Supreme Court’s thinking. Id. at 6-9, 11. Although the Court of Appeals also ruled for the defendants, the Supreme Court found fault with its logic. Id. at 7-9. Thus, the Arizona Supreme Court’s more closely approximates the Maricopa County Superior Court’s holding, although the Supreme Court also found some of the trial court’s reasoning faulty. Id. 7.

Specifically, the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruled that the type of mistake Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) anticipates had not occurred in Ms. Tyman’s case. Rule 15’s mistake provision extends to certain types of identification errors but not to situations where a party absolutely does not know who the proper defendant might be. Id. at 10-15.

Thus, Ms. Tyman’s amended complaint was filed too late, her case remained dismissed and she was denied a chance at redress against the defendants.

*Attorney Carrie M. Wilcox is the sole shareholder of Wilcox Legal Group, P.C. She is a graduate of Arizona State College of Law where she was a Note and Comment Editor for the Arizona State University Law Journal and former intern for the Honorable Rudolph Gerber, Arizona Court of Appeals. Ms. Wilcox is admitted to practice in the Arizona state courts and federal district court. Ms. Wilcox practices in the areas of business formation and creditor rights/debt collection. She also has wide-ranging experience in civil litigation, including employment law, family law, personal injury and business representation. Please contact Attorney Carrie Wilcox at 602.631.9555 for further information.

Phoenix office:
3030 N. Central Ave., Ste. 705
Phoenix, Arizona 85012
Ph: 602-631-9555
Fx: 602-631-4004

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1616 N. Litchfield Rd., Ste. 240
Goodyear, Arizona 85338
Ph: 623-344-7880
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Disclaimer: Providing the above information does not establish an
attorney-client relationship. To create such a relationship, both the
attorney and potential client must sign a written fee agreement. The
information contained herein is meant only as general information and is not meant to be relied upon for the purpose of taking legal action. You should contact an attorney in person for further and specific information. Wilcox & Wilcox, P.C. attorneys are licensed in Arizona only except for personal injury attorney Robert N. Edwards, who is licensed in Arizona and Minnesota

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