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Rideaux v. S. Cent. Bell - 595 So. 2d 382 (La. Ct. App. 1992)

Rule:

An amending petition which names a wholly new defendant is tantamount to the assertion of a new cause of action, and consequently does not relate back to the date of the filing of the original petition.

Facts:

Plaintiff-appellant Brenda Rideaux was injured while exiting her place of employment when an automatic door closing device malfunctioned causing the door to close on her wrist. Subsequently, she filed a product liability and negligence action against her employer, South Central Bell, and other unknown defendants. She amended her petition several times adding other manufacturers. Thereafter, all named defendants were released for various reasons. Then, Rideaux amended her petition naming product manufacturer Reading-Dorma, Inc. as defendant, alleging that its malfunctioning device was the sole and proximate cause of the accident. Defendant-appellee Reading-Dorma filed an exception of prescription of one year. The trial court sustained the exception and dismissed the suit. Rideaux sought further review, contending that her amending petition should relate back to her original petition

Issue:

In injured plaintiff's products liability and negligence action suit against various defendants, did the plaintiff's subsequent pleading naming a product manufacturer as a new defendant relate back to the original pleading?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeal of Louisiana affirmed the trial court's judgment dismissing suit against defendant-appellee product manufacturer Reading-Dorma after sustaining its plea of prescription. The Court held that the final petition did not relate back to plaintiff-appellant Rideaux's original petition, thereby interrupting prescription, because it named a wholly new defendant. This was tantamount to the assertion of a new cause of action, and consequently did not relate back to the date of the filing of the original petition. Explaining that courts interpret pleadings liberally, to allow litigants their day in court, the Court described another prescription case in which it was willing to find solidary liability even in the absence of proof or explicit allegations, because the uncontroverted factual allegations of the petition in that case revealed the possibility of solidary liability. In contrast, in the present case, Rideaux never made any allegations that any named defendant (other than South Central Bell, her employer) was the manufacturer or in any other way connected with the door closing device. There was no allegation that  defendant C.M. Long, Inc., and Reading Dorma were solidary obligors.

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