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Watts v. Smoke Guard, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 4, 2016

RAY TRIPP WATTS, Plaintiff,
v.
SMOKE GUARD, INC.; POWERS PRODUCTS CO; THE RESIDENCES AT LITTLE NELL DEVELOPMENT, LLC; THE RESIDENCES AT LITTLE NELL CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION and SIMPLEXGRINNELL, LP, Defendants.

ORDER

WILEY Y. DANIEL SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Residences at the Little Nell Condominium Association, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 92). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion, and no reply was filed. The motion is denied as set forth below.

This is an action for damages against Defendants Smoke Guard, Inc., Powers Products Co., The Residences at Little Nell Development, LLC, The Residences at the Little Nell Condominium Association, Inc., and SimplexGrinnell, LP related to serious injuries sustained by Plaintiff when he was struck on the head by a smoke detector in an elevator at the Residences at the Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado.

Relevant to this motion, Plaintiff alleges a claim for negligence against Defendant Little Nell Condominium Association, Inc. (“LNA”). LNA has moved to dismiss the complaint based on the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations. In response, Plaintiff argues that even though he amended his Complaint to include the additional Defendant LNA after the applicable statue of limitations had run, the amended complaint is not time barred if it relates back to a timely filed complaint. II. ANALYSIS Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1) governs the relation back of amendments. If the applicable statute of limitations has run, an amended complaint may relate back to the date of the timely filed original complaint when:

(A) the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back;
(B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out-or attempted to be set out-in the original pleading; or
(C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint [120 days from date of filing], the party to be brought in by amendment:
(I) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the merits; and
(ii) knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(A-C). Rule 15(c)(1)(B) applies to an amendment asserting a claim or defense, and Rule 15(c)(1)(C) applies to an amendment changing a party or the naming of a party. See Pierce v. Amaranto, 276 Fed.Appx. 788, 792 (10th Cir.2008). The relation back doctrine’s purpose is “to balance the interests of the defendant protected by the statute of limitations with the preference expressed in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure . . . for resolving disputes on their merits.” Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., 560 U.S. 538, 130 S.Ct. 2485, 2494 (2010).

A. Relation Back of Added Claims

The purpose of 15(c)(1)(B) is that “a party who has been notified of litigation concerning a particular occurrence has been given all the notice that statutes of limitations were intended to provide.” Baldwin Cnty. Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149 n. 3 (1984) (citation omitted). So long as there is a “factual nexus” between the original and amended complaints, the amended claim “is liberally construed to relate back to the original complaint if the defendant had notice of the claim and will not be prejudiced by the amendment.” Benton v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs, No. 06-cv-01406-PSF, 2007 WL 4105175, at *3 (D. Colo. Nov. 14, 2007), aff'd, 303 Fed.Appx. 625 (10th Cir. Dec. 17, 2008) (unpublished) (quoting Grattan v. Burnett, 710 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir.1983)). In Benton, this Court summarized the law governing the application of the relation back doctrine as follows:

As a general rule, amendments will relate back if they amplify the facts previously alleged, correct a technical defect in the prior complaint, assert a new legal theory of relief, or add another claim arising out of the same facts. For relation back to apply, there is no additional requirement that the claim be based on an identical theory of recovery. On the other hand, amendments generally will not relate back if they interject entirely different facts, conduct, transactions or occurrences. It is a matter ...

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