An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when: (A) the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back; (B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out--or attempted to be set out--in the original pleading; or (C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment (i) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the merits, and (ii) knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity.
Petitioner passenger on a cruise ship brought a personal injury action against an agent for respondent owner of the cruise ship line, and the passenger subsequently amended the complaint to name the owner as the proper defendant. Upon the grant of a writ of certiorari, the passenger appealed the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit which held that the amendment did not relate back under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c). The owner contended that the amendment did not relate back to the date of the original complaint, and thus the claim against the owner was barred by the statute of limitations, because the passenger's printed ticket expressly advised the passenger that the owner was the proper party to sue, and the passenger unduly delayed joining the owner.
Does a complaint amended on the ground of mistake as to the identity of the proper party relate back to the date of the original complaint, for purposes of determining whether the claim has been barred by the statute of limitations?
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held, however, that neither the passenger's knowledge nor her delay precluded relation-back of the amendment, since the proper inquiry was whether the owner knew or should have known that the owner would have been named as the defendant but for an error. That the passenger knew of the owner's existence did not preclude a mistake concerning the identity of the owner as the party to sue, and Rule 15(c) expressly asked what the owner knew or should have known, not what the passenger knew or should have known at the time the original compliant was filed. Further, Rule 15(c) did not mandate diligence on the part of the passenger as a requirement for relation back, and undue delay was not a discretionary basis to deny relation back since relation back was mandatory if the requirements of Rule 15(c) were met.