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What’s In A Name? The Wrong One Can End a Plaintiff's Case (PA)

June 30, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <a href="">Fick v. Barbon</a>, plaintiff Terrence Fick (“Fick”) appealed the Superior Court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of defendant Barry Barbon (“Barbon”) following a car accident. At issue here is Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure (Pa,R.C.P.) 1033—which explains correcting the name of a defendant after litigation has commenced—and the application of an amendment to the rule.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Fick alleges that on July 5, 2016, he was rear-ended by a vehicle owned by Barbon. At the time of the incident, Barbon’s grandson, Dean Reist (“Reist”), was driving. When Fick filed suit in July 2018, he only named Barbon as defendant and the statute of limitations expired soon after.<span class="Apple-converted-space">  </span>In August 2018, Fick filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint to name Reist as defendant in the matter. Fick alleged that Barbon and his insurance company concealed Reist’s identity. After his first motion was denied, Fick filed a second motion for leave to file an amended complaint stating that Pa.R.C.P. 1033(b) applied in this case. This motion was also denied, but the Court granted Barbon’s motion for summary judgment. Fick’s appeal followed.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Fick made three arguments in his appeal. First, he argued that the trial court erred and abused its discretion by denying his second motion for leave to amend despite his compliance with Pa.R.C.P. 1033. Second, he argued that the trial court erred and abused its discretion by denying his first motion since Barbon failed to disclose Reist’s identity before the statute of limitation ran. Lastly, he argued the trial court erred and abused its discretion by granting Barbon’s motion for summary judgment when a genuine issue of material fact would have existed had his motions been granted. Needless to say, the Superior Court did not agree.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Rule 1033(b) states an amendment correcting the name of a party who had claims asserted against it in the original pleading will relate back to the commencement of the matter if the party was given notice proper notice and such amendment will not prejudice the party’s defense of its case. The party also knew or should have known that it would have been named in the original pleading but for the mistake as to its identity. The Court argues Fick did not seek to amend the name of a party, but wanted to add Reist to the action after the statute of limitations had run. Such addition has been historically prohibited. Fick testified during his deposition that Reist provided his name and contact information following the car accident. Therefore, Reist’s identity was disclosed to Fick and his first and second arguments are baseless. Finally, the Court stated that the summary judgment in Barbon’s favor was appropriate because Fick sued the passenger in a case alleging negligent operation of a vehicle. Therefore, the summary judgment ruling was appropriate and affirmed.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></p>
Thanks to Gabrielle Outlaw for her contribution to this post.  For comments or questions please contact <a href="">Vincent Terrasi</a>.


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