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Worthington v. Wilson - 8 F.3d 1253 (7th Cir. 1993)

Rule:

A plaintiff may usually amend his complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c) to change the theory or statute under which recovery is sought; or to correct a misnomer of plaintiff where the proper party plaintiff is in court; or to change the capacity in which the plaintiff sues; or to substitute or add as plaintiff the real party interest; or to add additional plaintiffs where the action, as originally brought, was a class action. Thus, amendment with relation back is generally permitted in order to correct a misnomer of a defendant where the proper defendant is already before the court and the effect is merely to correct the name under which he is sued. But a new defendant cannot normally be substituted or added by amendment after the statute of limitations has run. Former Rule 15(c)(2) (current Rule 15(c)(3)) permits an amendment to relate back only where there has been an error made concerning the identity of the proper party and where that party is chargeable with knowledge of the mistake, but it does not permit relation back where there is a lack of knowledge of the proper party. Thus, in the absence of a mistake in the identification of the proper party, it is irrelevant for the purposes of former Rule 15(c)(2) (current Rule 15(c)(3)) whether or not the purported substitute party knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against him. 

Facts:

In his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint, Richard Worthington claimed that while being arrested the arresting officers purposely injured him. When he filed suit on the day the statute of limitations expired, he named "three unknown named police officers" as defendants. Worthington later sought to amend the complaint to substitute police officers Dave Wilson and Jeff Wall for the unknown officers. The district court concluded that the relation back doctrine of Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c) did not apply, and dismissed the amended complaint.

Issue:

Did the amendment of the plaintiff’s complaint in substituting the two police officers apply to the complaint originally filed under Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

In this case, Wilson and Wall did not know of Worthington's action before the limitations period expired, as was required by Schiavone, but they were aware of its pendency within the extra 120 days provided by new Rule 15(c)Worthington, 790 F. Supp. at 833. Since the amendment was decisive to the issue of "notice," the district judge retroactively applied new Rule 15(c), finding it "just and practicable" to do so. Id. at 833-34. We have no need to consider the retroactivity of amended Rule 15(c) as it might apply in this case because Worthington's amended complaint did not relate back under either the old or new version of Rule 15(c). Thus, The court affirmed the dismissal of the arrestee's suit.

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