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Smith v. Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp.

August 27, 2010

ELSIE SMITH, ET AL.
v.
BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY WAREHOUSE CORPORATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bartle, C.J.

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is the motion of the plaintiffs, Elsie Smith and Emmett Smith, to amend the caption of this case pursuant to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to name Burlington Coat Factory of Pennsylvania, LLC ("BCFP") as the proper defendant.

I.

On March 17, 2010, plaintiffs filed this personal injury lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corporation ("BCFWC"). Plaintiff Elsie Smith alleges she tripped and fell on April 1, 2008 at the Burlington Coat Factory store located at 1001 Market Street in Philadelphia. On April 1, 2010, BCFWC removed the action to this court based on diversity of citizenship.

Plaintiffs had named BCFWC as the defendant based on their review of the BCFWC website, which lists the store at 1001 Market Street as one of its locations. Furthermore, the phone book listing and the signs outside of the store at the location at issue simply identify it as Burlington Coat Factory. During discovery, BCFWC produced a copy of a lease showing that the correct name of the entity operating the store is BCFP.

II.

Rule 15 governs amended and supplemental pleadings. It permits an amendment as a "matter of course" in certain instances not applicable here. However, a party may amend its pleading with leave of court pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2). Reasons for denying a plaintiff's request for leave to amend a complaint include prejudice to the nonmoving party, undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive, and futility. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962). Amending the complaint may be futile if the statute of limitations would bar the claims asserted in the amended pleading. Here, the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions in Pennsylvania ran on April 1, 2010 and the plaintiffs filed their motion to amend the pleading to change the party against whom their claims are asserted on July 20, 2010. Thus, the only way the claims against BCFP can go forward is if the amended pleading relates back to the date of the filing of the original complaint.

Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states:

(1) When an Amendment Relates Back. 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 Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 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 ...


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