Florida State Appellate Court Provides Guidance for Defendants Pursuing Summary Judgment on Statute of Limitations Grounds

by Fowler White Burnett, P.A.
Contact

A Florida state appellate court recently provided guidance for defendants pursuing summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds where a plaintiff initially sues the wrong corporation and later substitutes the correct corporation as a defendant.

Recall that under Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.190, a party may amend a pleading and that “When 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 shall relate back to the date of the original pleading.”  The latter provision, Rule 1.190(c), is the key provision with respect to statute of limitations issues.

In May v. HCA Health Services of Florida, Inc., Case No. 2D13-5626, 49 Fla. L. Weekly D1035, 2015 WL 1955673 (Fla. 2nd DCA May 1, 2015), a former hospital patient and her husband filed a medical malpractice suit against several defendants, including Blake Medical Center Auxiliary (the “Auxiliary”). The Auxiliary was an affiliate of the corporation which owned and operated Blake Medical Center, where the treatment occurred.  

After suit was filed, the Auxiliary filed an answer asserting affirmative defense that it was not a proper party to the action.  Aside from this affirmative defense, the Auxiliary’s answer did not specify that it was a medical provider or that it did not operate Blake Medical Center.

One year into litigation, and after participating in discovery, the Auxiliary moved for summary judgment on the basis the statute of limitations had run on plaintiffs’ claims against it. Shortly after the motion was filed, the plaintiffs and the Auxiliary entered into a stipulation to substitute HCA Health Services of Florida, Inc. d/b/a Blake Medical Center (the “Medical Center”), the corporation which owned and operated Blake Medical Center, for the Auxiliary as a defendant.

In October 2012, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint against the Medical Center, which then asserted a statute of limitations affirmative defense in its answer.  The Medical Center thereafter moved for summary judgment, arguing the statute of limitations had passed. The trial court entered summary judgment in the Medical Center's favor, finding that (i) the Auxiliary and the Medical Center were distinct entities, (ii) the Auxiliary’s answer should have put the plaintiffs on notice they had sued the wrong party, and (iii) there was no overlap in interest between the Auxiliary and Medical Center because the Auxiliary did not provide medical care.

In reviewing the applicable law, the Second District Court of Appeal noted that, typically, if a plaintiff sues the wrong entity, the mistake cannot be remedied after the limitations period has elapsed. However, an exception to this rule exists when, after the limitations period has passed, a substitution of a corporation as a defendant for another corporation amounts solely to rectifying a misnomer as to the correct defendant’s identity.  In that situation, the statute of limitations will not bar suit, and relation back to the original filing is permitted.  Factors considered in determining whether a misnomer occurred include an incorrectly named party's active participation in the litigation and whether it shares the same counsel, the same physical address, the same directors or officers, the same registered agent, or the same phone and fax numbers as the correct defendant.

The Second District reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the Medical Center, finding the plaintiff sued the Auxiliary based on a mere misnomer.  The Second District highlighted that the Auxiliary had conducted extensive discovery aimed at prolonging the litigation until the statute of limitations had expired and also noted that the Auxiliary shared a similar name and the same counsel as the Medical Center.

As reflected in May, Florida courts are lenient in permitting relation back if a plaintiff mistakenly sues the wrong party, particularly if the incorrectly named party has filed an answer and participated in discovery. Although this case reflects a limitations defense based on a plaintiff’s pursuit of claims against an improper party is difficult to prevail upon, a defendant wishing to pursue this strategy should be careful not to file an answer or participate in discovery.

4836-6849-0788, v.  1

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Fowler White Burnett, P.A. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Fowler White Burnett, P.A.
Contact
more
less

Fowler White Burnett, P.A. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.