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Fictitious Parties Practice

Ex parte Russell; Ex parte Blanchard; Ex parte Gulas, et al., [Ms. 1180317; 1180318; 1180319, June 26, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020). The Court (1180137 – Mitchell, J.; Bolin, Shaw, Wise, Bryan, and Stewart, JJ., concur; Mendheim, J., concurs in the result; Parker, C.J., recuses; 1180318 – Mitchell, J.; Bolin, Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Mendheim, and Stewart, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., recuses; 1180319 – Mitchell, J.; Bolin, Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Mendheim, and Stewart, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., recuses) grants defendant Russell’s petition for writ of mandamus directing the Talladega Circuit Court to dismiss Miles’s action against her based upon expiration of statute of limitations. The Court denies petitions filed by defendants Blanchard, Gulas, and Pruitt, concluding that the plaintiff properly substituted those defendants for fictitious defendants in plaintiff’s original complaint.

“Although mandamus will not generally issue to review the merits of an order denying a motion for a summary judgment, this Court has held that, in the ‘narrow class of cases involving fictitious parties and the relation-back doctrine,’ mandamus is the proper method by which to review the merits of a trial court’s denial of a summary-judgment motion in which the defendant argues that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. [Ex parte] Mobile Infirmary Ass’n, 74 So. 3d [424], [at] 427-28 [(Ala. 2011)] (quoting [Ex parte] Jackson, 780 So. 2d [681,] [at] [(Ala. 2000)] 684).”

Ms. **18-19, quoting Ex parte Integra Life Sciences Corp., 271 So. 3d 814, 817 (Ala. 2018).

As to Blanchard, the Court denied the petition concluding “it is undisputed in this case that Miles did not learn that Blanchard had any specific connection to Tameca until after the statute of limitations expired. All Miles knew before the statute of limitations expired was that Blanchard had been on duty in the Emergency Room when Tameca was brought in .... Ms. *23.

The Court also denied the petition of Gulas because “although Gulas was identified in a list of fourteen CVMC employees who worked in the Emergency Room on December 28, 2013, Miles had no knowledge of Gulas’s relevance to this case until CVMC supplemented its discovery responses on June 10, 2016, and revealed for the first time that Gulas ‘saw Tameca Miles on December 28, 2013.’ Miles then amended her complaint to substitute Gulas as a defendant that same month.” Ms. **28-29.

The Court also denies the petition of Pruitt, explaining that

“[a] complaint stating a claim against a fictitiously named defendant must contain sufficient specificity to put that defendant on notice of the plaintiff’s claim if it were to read the complaint.” Ms. *32, quoting Ex parte International Refining & Manufacturing Co., 972 So. 2d 784, 789 (Ala. 2007). Moreover, “the complaint must describe the actions that form the basis of the cause of action against the fictitiously named defendant. Id. We have further explained that “[o]ne need not state with more particularity a cause of action against an unknown party as compared to a named party – the test is the same.” Ibid., quoting Columbia Eng’g Int’l, Ltd. v. Espey, 429 So. 2d 955, 960 (Ala. 1993).

The Court concludes that “Miles’s original complaint is sufficiently specific to assert a cause of action against Pruitt.” Ms. *33.

As to defendant Russell, the Court grants the writ directing the circuit court to dismiss Russell. The Court notes “it is undisputed that defendant Russell was never in the Emergency Room involved in any attempt to provide medical services to Tameca. Rather, Russell is alleged only to have told the security guard Hill – after he telephoned her to describe the services in the Emergency Room – “‘if you think you need to call the police, call them.’” Ms. *36. The Court holds that

because none of the allegedly tortious acts described in Miles’s complaint adequately describe the act Russell is accused of committing – telling the security guard he could call the police if the thought it was necessary to do so – Miles cannot use Rule 9(h) to avoid the statute of limitations and assert an otherwise untimely claim against Russell. The trial court therefore erred by denying her motion for a summary judgment.

Ms. *36.

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