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Raube v. X-L Specialized Trailers

April 10, 2008

VERA RAUBE AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF STANLEY RAUBE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
X-L SPECIALIZED TRAILERS, INC., HUTCHENS INDUSTRIES, INC., ABC COMPANY 1-10, AND DEF COMPANY 1-10, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

This is a wrongful death and survival action brought by the Estate of Stuart Raube against defendants. Before the Court is defendant Hutchens Industries, Inc.'s ("Hutchens") motion to dismiss. Hutchens argues that it should be dismissed because plaintiff's amended complaint was filed beyond the applicable statute of limitations. For reasons explained below, Hutchens' motion is denied.

I. JURISDICTION

This Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity). Plaintiff is a citizen of New Jersey, and decedent's estate has been admitted to probate in New Jersey. Defendant X-L Specialized Trailers, Inc. ("X-L") is a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Iowa with a principal place of business in Iowa. Defendant Hutchens is a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Missouri with a principal place of business in Missouri. Plaintiff alleges that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00.

II. BACKGROUND

On or about October 12, 2004, while in the course of his employment with Robins Motor Transportation, Inc. of Eddystone, Pennsylvania, Mr. Raube sustained deadly injuries while assisting a co-worker in adjusting the sliding tandem axle on an X-L model trailer. Plaintiff brought negligence, defective design and failure to warn claims against defendant X-L by complaint filed on September 27, 2006. On March 27, 2007, plaintiff amended her complaint and substituted defendant Hutchens for one of the fictitious companies named in the original complaint.

III. DISCUSSION

Hutchens moves this Court to dismiss plaintiff's claims against it on the ground that plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations.*fn1 Although there is disagreement between the parties as to whether Pennsylvania law or New Jersey law should apply, both states apply a two year limitations period for personal injury claims. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. §5524; N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2. Plaintiff timely filed her complaint within two years after the accident, but her amended complaint substituting Hutchens as a defendant was filed approximately two years and six months after the accident.

As recognized by Hutchens, plaintiff could still file her amended complaint beyond the limitations period if the amended complaint "relates back" to the original complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c) permits an amended complaint filed beyond the statute of limitations to "relate back" to the filing of the original complaint in three instances:

(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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