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Bonerb v. Richard J Caron Foundation Case Brief

Summary of Bonerb v. Richard J Caron Foundation
159 F R D  16 [1994]

Pleading- S/L and Relation Back; Responding to the Complaint

Relevant Facts: Pl, Bonerb, while a patient at Df’s rehab facility, was participating in a mandatory exercise program.  Pl slipped and fell while playing basketball on Df’s recreational basketball court.  Pl moves for substitution of counsel, and afterward moved to amend complaint to include malpractice.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the Pl’s proposed amended complaint would be an exercise in undue delay or bad faith on the part of the Pl against the Df?

Court’s Holding: No there is no evidence of either.

Procedure: W D N Y diversity action before a magistrate Motion to amend granted; Trial scheduled.

Law or Rule(s):  Once the time for amending a pleading has expired, a party may request leave of the ct to amend, which ‘shall be freely given when justice so requires,’ and there is an absence of undue prejudice to the opposing party, or undue delay on the part of the party seeking or bad faith.

Court Rationale: Cts look to the operational facts set forth in the original complaint to determine whether the Df was put on notice of the claim that the Pl later seeks to add.  Relation Back Doctrine – one who has been given notice of litigation concerning a given transaction, or occurrence has been provided w/ all the protection that S/L are designed to afford. Thus if advised at the outset of the general facts, the amendment will relate back even thought the S/L has run during the interim.

An amendment which changes the legal theory of the case is appropriate if the factual situation upon which the action depends remains the same and has been brought to the Df’s attention by the original complaint. Here the allegations in the original and amended complaints derive from the same nucleus of operative facts involving injury suffered by Pl.  The allegations not only gave Df sufficient NOTICE of the general facts pertaining to the occurrence, but also alerted the Df that the possibility of a claim based on negligent performance of professional duties. This is all that is required of the relation back doctrine under FRCP 15(c).

Plaintiff’s Argument: The operative facts in the original complaint are the same as those in the amended complaint and Df was therefor given notice of the possibility of further claims related to those operative facts.

Defendant’s Argument: The amendment should not be allowed b/c the counseling malpractice claim does not relate back to the original pleading and is therefor barred by PA’s 2 yr S/L.  If allowed the Df would be unduly prejudiced b/c Df will have to prepare to defend the case anew.



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