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Mills v. J. E. M. Enterprises, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

November 17, 2014

MICHAEL MILLS, Plaintiff,
v.
J. E. M. ENTERPRISES, Inc., Defendant and Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
HARVEY HANNA & ASSOCIATES, Inc., Third-Party Defendant

Submitted: October 21, 2014

Honorable Andrea L. Rocanelli, Judge

Plaintiff Michael Mills has filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint to add a direct claim against Third-Party Defendant Harvey Hanna & Associates, Inc., which opposes Plaintiff's Motion. After oral argument, the parties submitted briefing at the Court's request. Upon consideration of Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint, the Court makes the following findings:

1. The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff slipped and fell on July 2, 2012.

2. Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on January 9, 2014 against Defendant J.E.M. based on Plaintiff's understanding that Defendant J.E.M. was the party responsible for providing cleaning and janitorial services on the premises where Plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell.

3. On February 21, 2014, Defendant J.E.M. filed an Answer and Third-Party Complaint, asserting that Third-Party Defendant Hanna was the party responsible for maintaining the interior of the building where Plaintiff claims to have slipped and fallen.

4. Third-Party Defendant Hanna was served with the Third-Party Complaint on April 7, 2014, and filed its Answer on June 24, 2014. On that same day, Third-Party Defendant Hanna also served discovery on Plaintiff.

5. On July 21, 2014, Plaintiff's counsel notified counsel for Defendant J.E.M. and counsel for Third-Party Defendant Hanna that Plaintiff intended to amend the Complaint to assert claims directly against Third-Party Defendant Hanna. Counsel for Defendant J.E.M. promptly responded that Defendant did not object. On July 23, 2014, Counsel for Third-Party Defendant Hanna responded that Third-Party Defendant could not consent to the amendment because the applicable statute of limitations had run.

6. On July 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed the Motion to Amend the Complaint, which is now pending before the Court and is the subject of this Order.

7. The applicable statute of limitations for the alleged incident expired on July 2, 2014.[1] If suit had been filed at the expiration of the statute, service of process was required within 120 days, no later than October 30, 2014.[2]

8. The Court issued a Trial Scheduling Order on August 15, 2014, setting the trial date of July 27, 2015, as well as other related deadlines, including a discovery deadline of March 9, 2015.

9. The Court may grant a motion for leave to amend or add a complaint after the statute of limitations for the proposed claim has expired, if permitted under the relation-back provision of Rule 15(c).[3]

10. Rule 15(c)(3) requires the proposed claim relate back to the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence described in the original complaint.[4] The effect of the rule is to enlarge the statute of limitations.[5] Additionally, the party opposing the amendment must have been put on notice of the existence of the potential additional plaintiffs and their claims in order to prevent prejudice to the opposing party's ability to defend against the proposed claims on the merits.[6]

11. Despite the general liberal policy of permitting leave to amend under Rule 15(a), a motion to add additional plaintiffs by amendment after the statute of limitations has run must be denied unless it ...


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