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Litigation

Supreme Court Rules Woman Can Amend Premises Liability Complaint Against Cruise Line

WASHINGTON, D.C. - (Mealey's) The U.S. Supreme Court on June 7 reversed a decision involving the misnaming of a defendant in the original complaint in a premises liability action, concluding that the mistake did not preclude the plaintiff from filing an amended complaint (Wanda Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.P.A., No. 09-337, U.S. Sup.).

Wanda Krupski sued Costa Cruise Lines in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for injuries she suffered while aboard the cruise ship Costa Magica.  In February 2007, Krupski allegedly tripped over a camera cable in the ship's theater and suffered a fractured femur.

More than a year after the injury, Costa Cruise answered the complaint, pointing out that it was the North American sales and booking agent for the carrier/vessel operator Costa Crociere.  Krupski amended her complaint, adding Costa Crociere as a party and dismissing the action against Costa Cruise.

Costa Crociere moved to dismiss, arguing that it had been sued after the one-year period allowed for claims as set forth in the ticket and that the amended complaint did not "relate back" under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C).  The trial court granted the motion, and the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the 11th Circuit, noting that Costa Crociere should have known that Krupski's mistake in naming the defendant in her original complaint was the result of confusion about the proper party's identity.  The high court rejected Costa Crociere's contention that Rule 15(c) required Krupski to amend her complaint within the Rule 4(m) period.

"It is also worth noting that Costa Cruise and Costa Crociere are related corporate entities with very similar names; 'crociera' even means 'cruise' in Italian," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court.  "This interrelationship and similarity heighten the expectation that Costa Crociere should suspect a mistake has been made when Costa Cruise is named in a complaint that actually describes Costa Crociere's activities."

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the June 14 issue of Mealey's Personal Injury Report.  In the meantime, the opinion is available at www.mealeysonline.com or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844.  Document #77-100614-013Z.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]

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Mealeysonline.com - Document #77-100614-013Z

For more information, call editor Chris Bauer at 610-205-1171, or e-mail him at christopher.bauer@lexisnexis.com.