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Law School Case Brief

Blair v. Durham - 134 F.2d 729 (6th Cir. 1943)

Rule:

An amendment does not set up a new cause of action so long as the cause of action alleged grows out of the same transaction and is basically the same or is identical in the essential elements upon which the right to sue is based and upon which defendant's duty to perform is alleged to have arisen. As long as a plaintiff adheres to a legal duty breached or an injury originally declared on, an alteration of the modes in which defendant has breached the legal duty or caused the injury is not an introduction of a new cause of action. The true test is whether the proposed amendment is a different matter or the same matter more fully or differently laid.

Facts:

Appellants, a contractor and its employee, challenged an order of the District Court of the United States for the Middle District of Tennessee entered in favor of appellee injured party who filed a personal injury action against appellants contending he was harmed in an accident upon a project being carried out by the contractor. The contractor was working on a project for the Collector of Revenue. The injured party was an employee in one of the Collector's offices. She was injured by falling timber in the office. She filed an original complaint alleging the negligence of appellants and their servants and later filed an amendment. At the time the amendment was filed, the empanelling of the jury was set aside and the cause continued. Thereupon, appellants moved to dismiss the amended complaint on the ground it stated a new cause of action and was barred by the Tennessee Statute of Limitation of one year. 

Issue:

Was the amended complaint barred by the statute of limitations?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court found the amendment was not barred by the Tennessee Statute of Limitations of one year under Code of Tennessee, § 8595 because the original complaint and the amendment relied upon the same unlawful violation of duty that appellants owed her, making the amendment permissible under Rule 15(a) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.S. following § 723c. A comparison between the appellee's original complaint and the amendment leaves no room for doubt that in both she relies on the same unlawful violation of a duty which appellants owed her at the place and in the position where she worked. The original complaint which alleged that appellee's injuries were due to the negligence of appellant's employees in the use of the scaffold states no different cause of action as respects limitation than the amended complaint which stated that her injuries were due to the negligent manner in which the scaffold was constructed, because the two acts alleged were but different invasions of appellee's primary right and different breaches of the same duty. There was but one injury and it is immaterial whether it resulted from the negligence of the users of the scaffold or from its construction, since in either case it was a violation of the same obligation.

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