Marsh v. Coleman Co.

774 F. Supp. 608 (D. Kan. 1991)



Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c) provides in part that whenever a claim or defense asserted in an amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading, the amendment relates back to the date of the original pleading. Rule 15(c) is built upon the premise that once notified of pending litigation over particular conduct or a certain transaction or occurrence, the defendant has been given all the notice required for purposes of the statute of limitations. The linchpin to Rule 15(c) is notice before the limitations period expires. Relation back does not offend the notice policies underlying a statute of limitations if the original complaint fairly discloses the general fact situation out of which the new claims arise. Amendments will relate back if they only flesh out the factual details, change the legal theory, or add another claim arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or conduct. Relation back is denied those amendments that are based on entirely different facts, transactions, and occurrences. 


The employee filed an action against the employer, alleging that his termination was taken in connection with certain fraudulent misrepresentations, was in breach of an implied contract of employment, and was in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C.S. § 621 et seq. The employer moved for summary judgment on the employee's claims for breach of an implied contract and fraud, however, this was denied on the breach of an implied contract claim on the theory that the written employment agreement between the parties was modified by implication.


Is the doctrine of Relation Back covered under a new cause of action that is substantially different?




Looking back at the plaintiff's original complaint, he limited his factual allegations to his termination on January 20, 1988, to the reasons given for his termination, to his replacement being younger, and to the defendant's actions being in breach of his employment contract. All alleged events occurred on January 20, 1988, or after. The complaint made no reference to any transactions or events occurring in 1984 or 1985. None of the claims were based on promises by defendant that plaintiff would always have employment with it. Not until his amended complaint, did plaintiff ever allege that defendant's agents made fraudulent statements to him prior to his discharge. For that matter, plaintiff never sought damages for lost employment opportunities until he added his new claim for fraud. The above conclusion is consistent with how other courts have applied Rule 15(c) in employment discharge or discrimination cases.  Relation back is permitted when the amendments simply allege another unlawful motive for the same adverse employment action. Courts have denied relation back when the amended claims are based on actions of the employer that are substantially different in kind or time.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.