November 4, 2022 by Suzan Cherichetti Automobile, Civil Procedure, New York 0 comments
A Tale Of Two Transit Authorities: Relation Back Doctrine Found Not to Apply Where Defendants Were Not United In InterestIn New York, a claim asserted against a new defendant will “relate back” to the date of the original claim if plaintiff establishes that (1) both claims arose out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence; (2) the new defendant is united in interest with the original defendant, and by reason of that relationship can be charged with notice of the institution of the action such that the new defendant will not be prejudiced in maintaining its defense on the merits by the delayed claim; and (3) the new defendant knew or should have known that, but for a mistake by the plaintiff as to the identity of the proper parties, the action would have been brought against the new defendant as well. See CPLR 203(b). The Appellate Division, Second Department recently addressed the “relation back” doctrine in Chandler v. New York City Transit Authority. In that case, plaintiff was allegedly injured after a city bus driver closed the door on plaintiff’s hand and began to drive away. Plaintiff commenced an action only against the New York City Transit Authority, an improper party. After the statute of limitations expired, plaintiff moved for leave to amend the action to include Metropolitan Transit Authority Bus Company, the proper entity. The Supreme Court denied the motion, finding that the claims against the newer defendant did not relate back to the initial pleading. The Second Department affirmed, holding that while both claims arose out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence, plaintiff failed to establish that the Transit Authority defendants were united in interest. To do so, it must be shown that the defendants “stand or fall together and that judgment against one will similarly affect the other.” In a negligence action, to be united in interest further means that “the defenses available to two defendants will be identical, and thus their interests will be united, only where one is vicariously liable for the acts of the other.” Since plaintiff could not make such a showing, the court affirmed the denial of plaintiff’s motion to name the Metropolitan Transit Authority Bus Company as a defendant. The takeaway from Chandler is that New York has specific requirements for claims asserted against newer defendants after the expiration of the statute of limitations to “relate back” to claims made in the initial complaint. Claims not meeting these requirements are subject to challenge and dismissal. Thank you to Rebecca Pasternak for her contribution to this post. Please contact Andrew Gibbs with any questions.