The West Virginia Supreme Court recently issued a unanimous ruling prohibiting a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit from adding additional defendants to a lawsuit after the statute of limitations had expired. The opinion affirmed the dismissal of the suit by the relevant circuit court from June.
The lawsuit, filed against Town of Wayne, was brought on behalf of Deborah Wallace who alleged that she was injured in May 2007 after she stepped on a water meter cover in the parking lot of the Wayne Post Office and the cover flipped over. Wallace and husband Dale filed a complaint in 2009 against the Town of Wayne for negligence, failure to warn and loss of consortium.
Following the complaint, Wayne filed a complaint against the construction company, alleging that it negligently repaved the parking lot. The construction company then filed a complaint against a paving company, claiming it was at least partially responsible for any potential liability to the city, since the paving company had contracted with the construction company.
The circuit court later dismissed the complaint against city. The construction company then moved to have the action against it dismissed, and the paving company joined in the motion.
Shorty thereafter, the plaintiff’s husband took over as excutor of her estate, following her death. He then sought permission to amend the complaint to add the construction and paving companies as defendants. He argued that the parties would not be prejudiced by the amendment, because they had been parties to third party complaints for over a year. The circuit court did not agree, and granted the construction companies’ motion to dismiss.
On appeal, Wallace argued that because the construction companies were engaged in litigation regarding the same event, they would not be prejudiced by being added to this complaint.
The Supreme Court rejected Wallace’s arguments. It ruled that in order to be properly added to the original complaint, the newly added defendants must have received notice for the original action, and knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against them within the statute of limitations, or within the period prescribed for service of the summons and complaint. Because both of those time periods were eclipsed, the court ruled, the two defendants could not be added to the amended complaint.
What this case demonstrates is the absolute importance of being represented by a personal injury law firm that understands the rules relating to the statute of limitations in your case, and who additional defendants might be in your case. There are some simple straightforward tactics that could potentially have been used in this case which may have saved the viability of the plaintiffs’ claims.
If you have been injured in an accident, be sure to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to learn how to best preserve relevant evidence, and in order to get the proceedings in process as soon as practicable.
If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury due to someone else’s negligence, contact the experienced Washington D.C. area personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC immediately. Our dedicated attorneys have represented families who have suffered as a result of car accidents, medical malpractice, birth injuries, premises liability and other traumatic events. If you believe that your loved one died because of the wrongful or negligent actions of another, please contact the personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen by calling 1-800-654-1949 or by visiting our website, in order to schedule your initial free consultation.
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Class Action Claims DC Police Officers Target Young Black Motorcyclists, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, published July 30, 2013