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The following criteria determine whether La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 1153 allows an amendment to a petition which changes the identity of a party or parties sued to relate back to the date of filing of the original petition: (1) the amended claim must arise out of the same transaction or occurrence set forth in the original petition; (2) the purported substitute defendant must have received notice of the institution of the action such that he will not be prejudiced in maintaining a defense on the merits; (3) the purported substitute defendant must know or should have known that but for a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party defendant, the action would have been brought against him; (4) the purported substitute defendant must not be a wholly new or unrelated defendant, since this would be tantamount to assertion of a new cause of action which would have otherwise prescribed.
Rose Renfroe was driving south on Causeway Boulevard before reaching the overpass over Airline Highway, her vehicle crossed the concrete median on Causeway Boulevard and collided with two vehicles causing her death. Plaintiff, Lonnie Renfroe, the husband, filed a petition for damages against defendant Dept. Of Transportation and Development. Plaintiff alleged that defendant was liable for his wife’s death under Louisiana Civil Code articles 2315 and 2317 due to improper construction, maintenance, and design of Causeway Boulevard. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that, although another part of Causeway Boulevard is a state highway, it begins at Jefferson Highway to the south and ends at its junction with the south right of way line with Airline Highway, which does not include the portion of Causeway Boulevard where the accident occurred. In the trial court, after plaintiff originally sued the wrong party in seeking damages for his wife’s death, amended his petition to include the appellant road district and expressway commission. The trial court denied these parties' exceptions of prescription. The Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment.
Did the plaintiff's supplemental and amended petitions, which added road district and expressway commission as defendants outside of the one-year prescriptive period, relate back to an earlier timely filed petition against the defendant State department?
No. The judgment of the lower courts was reversed.
The supreme court held that plaintiff’s claim prescribed as to the road district and expressway commission because under La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 1153, it did not relate back to the original filing. The court further held that neither the district nor the commission received actual notice of plaintiff’s claim within the prescriptive period, and they did not share an identity of interests with the defendant, making them wholly new and unrelated parties, and making the plaintiff’s claim against them a new cause of action. The doctrine of contra non-valentem did not prevent the running of liberative prescription because the plaintiff’s ignorance that the district and commission were the proper parties were attributable to his own neglect, because he could, by reasonable diligence, have learned that they were the proper parties.