Patterson v. Consolidated Aluminum Corp., [Ms. 1110633, Aug. 17, 2012] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2012), the Supreme Court
affirmed a dismissal of an amended complaint upon concluding that plaintiffs'
delay of 15 months after they should have known of the identity of the
defendants intended to be substituted for fictitiously-named defendants,
and 8 months after the statute of limitations had expired, supported the
trial court's conclusion that plaintiffs did not exercise due diligence
to amend their complaint promptly once the fictitiously-named defendants
were identified. Citing
Ex parte Griffin, 4 So.3d 430, 436 (Ala. 2008), the Court holds that in order to invoke
the relation-back doctrine, and to justify the substitution of a defendant
for a fictitiously-named party after the limitations period has run, the
plaintiff must establish "(1) that it stated a cause of action against
the defendant in the body of the original complaint, albeit identifying
the party only as a fictitiously named party; (2) that it was ignorant
of the defendant's identity at the time the original complaint was
filed; (3) that it exercised due diligence to identify the fictitiously
named party; and (4) that it promptly amended its complaint once it knew
the identity of the fictitiously named party."
Id. Ms. at * 10. "The absence of evidence establishing any one of these
factors is sufficient to support a trial court's judgment disallowing
the outside-the-limitations-period substitution."