Brink v. First Credit Resources Case Brief
Summary of Brink v. First Credit Resources, U.S. District Court for the District of AZ (1999).
Cause of action: The following is a cause of action for violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, in which PL alleges DF of trying to collect on a time-barred debt.
Procedural History: PL filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint. DF filed a timely motion in opposition. PL’s motion is granted.
Facts: DF’s challenge PL’s motion to add of the names of the president and vice president of the company. Letter was mailed 4/29/97. Motion for leave to amend took place in 10/98 (over a year later, after statute of limitations).
DF’s claim the motion lacks notice or mistake, which are the components of FRCP 15(c).
Issue(s): Under FRCP 15(a) is PL barred from adding the names of company officials in suit when the suit itself is for the actions of a party for violating a time-barred provision?
Is the filing of the motion for leave to amend after the staute of limitations barred b/c the statute of limitations is also a statute of repose?
Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: Notice requirement. As per FRCP 4(m), DF needs to receive notice of the amended claim within 120 days of filing the original complaint. This court says notice does not have to be formal but actual. This circuit also says notice can be constructive. All there needs to be is an identity of interest as it relates to the party being sued originally and the amended DF’s to the claim (like subsidiary in a parent company claim).
Mistake. DF’s argue their being name to the complaint was not mistake b/c the omission of those DF’s was not a mistake. This circuit construes the mistake as to amending the complaint with names of parties not known to the complaint at the time of filing is okay when the previously unknown defendants were identified only after the statute of limitations had run. If the party had doubts as to whether to name the party, then relented, then decided to later, is not allowed. They are also not allowed to add defendants if they know the identity of the parties before the statute ran out, but added them later. The situation where this is permitted is when the identities of the parties is available but those parties do not come out of the woodwork until after the statute of limitations has run.
PL did actively seek the names through discovery, but never got an answer from them. Like the rule in 15(c)(3)(B), DF’s should or should have known their identities were being sought in the complaint, and they failed to provide an answer. This is proven by DF counsel’s refusal to reveal their names in the discovery process, which links their knowledge to the rule.
Rule: Under the FDCPA, the time for the statute of limitations starts running the day the letter is sent, or if it is amended, and the complaint is timely only if the claims against the new DF’s relate back to the original complaint as per FRCP 15(c)
Definition of identity of interest: “when the parties are so closely related in their business operations or other activities that the institution of an action against one serves to provide notice of the litigation to the other.”
For situations which could be barred by res judicata, the definition of those persons who could be brought into an amended complaint are those who: “own most or all of the shares in a corporation and controls the affairs of the corporation, it is presumed that in litigation involving that corporation the individual has sufficient commonality of interest.”
(see the rest of FRCP 15(c))
Holding: No. In this case, PL was not aware of the identities of the additional DF’s until after the statute of limitations had run, and this is b/c the DF’s themselves came out of the woodwork late intentionally. This is not in the control of P, and thus he is not barred from adding extra DF’s to the complaint despite the statute’s running.