CIVIL PROCEDURE - FICTITIOUS PARTIES, RELATION BACK OF AMENDMENTS - PATTERSON V. CONSOLIDATED ALUMINUM CORP.
In 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." Id.