Ex Parte Lucas (In re: Mckee v. Lucas)
The Supreme Court of Alabama
212 So.3d 921 | June 10, 2016
RELATION BACK PRINCIPAL IN FICTITIOUS PLEADING DOES NOT APPLY WHEN A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT IDENTIFIES THE DEFENDANT
This matter was heard on a petition for writ of mandamus regarding a motion for summary judgment filed in the Circuit Court of Shelby County. Normally, a denial of motion for summary judgment it not subject to mandamus review. However, this matter presented itself as one of the limited exceptions for mandamus review of a summary judgment: when a summary judgment was denied on the relation back principle of fictitious party pleading.
McKee was involved in a car wreck in Shelby County, Alabama which involved two collisions. She was rear-ended, and then the car behind her was rear-ended causing that car to strike McKee’s car a second time.McKee timely filed a complaint naming the driver of the car behind her, and included a fictitious defendant referencing the driver of the third car that struck the car behind McKee. That third car was operated by Lucas. McKee did not amend her complaint to name Lucas until after the two-year statute of limitations had run, and Lucas filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that McKee had not exercised due diligence in identifying Lucas as a party defendant, which the trial court denied.
The responding police officer generated two separate accident reports, and provided McKee with the report number for only the first car accident, which McKee obtained from the Pelham Police Department. McKee made no other attempts to identify Lucas prior to filing a complaint.
Lucas’s motion for summary judgment noted that the second police report was available within a few days of the accident, and had McKee performed her due diligence, she would have been able to identify Lucas as a defendant well before the statute of limitations had expired. The Supreme Court of Alabama agreed, citing prior case law, that when a government record is generated and available to the public, McKee was afforded adequate opportunity to identify Lucas as a defendant. The Supreme Court of Alabama did not agree with McKee that her delay was the responding law enforcement officer’s fault for only providing the reference number for the first collision. McKee could have requested any report involving her automobile, or the car behind her. The relation back principle of fictitious pleading is only available when the plaintiff is unaware of the identity of the defendant, and has exercised due diligence in discovering the identity of an unknown defendant.