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Woman’s amended complaint is within limitations period

February 20, 2014

The Indiana Court of Appeals Thursday spurned a previous ruling from the court and instead looked to a Vermont case to decide that a woman’s amended complaint should not be dismissed for being outside the statute of limitations.

Kris Schoolcraft, as personal representative of the wrongful death estate of Rickie D. Schoolcraft, sued mower manufacturer Magic Circle Corp. after Rickie Schoolcraft died from injuries sustained in a mower accident. On May 4, 2012, a day before the limitations period expired, she moved to amend the claim to add defendants who made parts for the mower. The motion was file-stamped that day; the trial court granted the motion to amend May 15.

The new defendants claim the amended complaint fell outside the limitations period. The trial court denied their motion to dismiss, determining the limitation period was tolled the moment Schoolcraft filed her proposed amended complaint and the summonses.

Based on A.J.’s Auto Sales Inc. v. Freet, 725 N.E.2d 955 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), the Court of Appeals should dismiss Schoolcraft’s amended complaint. The circumstances in the instant case are nearly identical to those in A.J.’s, Judge Melissa May pointed out. But instead, the appellate panel declined to follow A.J.’s and instead followed the rule that a majority of state and federal courts follow in situations where a motion to file an amended complaint is brought within the limitations period but not granted by the trial court until after the limitations period has expired.

That rule was articulated in The Children’s Store v. Cody Enters, Inc., 580 A.2d 1206, 1209-11 (Vt. 1990). The opinion stated, “If the date of commencement is based on when the court grants the motion to amend rather than when the plaintiff files the motion and proposed complaint, the plaintiff is left with uncertainty over whether the statute of limitation requirements will be met. The matter is out of the hands of the plaintiff and is controlled by the vagaries of the court’s workload. The better rule is that the action is commenced when the plaintiff files the motion to amend and the proposed complaint irrespective of when the court grants the motion to amend.”

If the panel followed A.J.’s, May wrote in Magic Circle Corporation, d/b/a Dixie Chopper, The Kelch Corporation, et al. v. Kris Schoolcraft as Personal Representative of the Wrongful Death Estate of Rickie D. Schoolcraft, Deceased, 29A02-1303-CT-273, it would punish Schoolcraft for the court’s unavoidable delay in issuing an order granting leave to amend a complaint.
 

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