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Perez v. Paramount Communications, 1999 N.Y. Int. 0017 (Feb. 18, 1999).

CIVIL PROCEDURE - LEAVE TO AMEND - STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue

Whether the filing of a motion for leave to amend the complaint that includes a copy of the proposed supplemental summons and amended complaint, tolls the Statute of Limitations and can be considered a timely commencement of the action against a party to be added by the amended complaint.

Disposition

Yes. Where the motion to add a party as a defendant contains the proposed supplemental summons and an amended complaint, and is filed with the court within the limitations period, the Statute of Limitations is tolled until the date of the trial court's entry of an order deciding the motion.

SUMMARY

Plaintiff alleged that he was injured while working on the renovation of Madison Square Garden on November 20, 1990. He filed a negligence action on November 27, 1992 against Defendant Paramount Communications, Inc. ("Paramount"), but learned during discovery that another party, Madison Square Garden, LP ("MSG"), was actually the owner/operator of the building where the Plaintiff was injured. Plaintiff then filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint to add MSG as a defendant on June 16, 1993, and appended to the motion papers a copy of the proposed supplemental summons and amended complaint. The court granted the motion on October 3, 1993, and Plaintiff served the supplemental summons and complaint on Defendant and filed proof of service with the Court on December 2, 1993. On November 29, 1993, Plaintiff consolidated the actions. MSG moved to have the case dismissed, arguing that the November 29, 1993 filing action was barred by the applicable three-year Statue of Limitations as set forth in C.P.L.R. Section 214[5]. The Supreme Court refused to dismiss the action, finding that while the commencement against MSG was untimely, MSG and Paramount were united in interest such that the action against MSG dated back to the Plaintiff's filing of the original claim against Paramount. The Appellate Division affirmed on different grounds, finding that MSG was not united in interest with Paramount, but that commencement of the action against MSG was still timely because Plaintiff filed his motion for leave to amend his complaint with a copy of the proposed supplemental summons and amended complaint prior to the expiration of the Statute of Limitations.

The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court reasoned that the traditional rule, articulated in Arnold v. Mayal Realty Co., 299 N.Y. 57 (1949), requiring judicial permission to add a defendant before service of the amended complaint and summons were considered commencement of an action, had to be set aside in light of the policies of the C.P.L.R. and the State's recent transition to a commencement-by-filing system. The Court reasoned that the C.P.L.R.'s liberal policies of promoting judicial economy and preventing a multiplicity of suits would be better served by allowing a toll of the Statute of Limitations from the date the motion, including proposed supplemental summons and amended complaint, is filed with the court to the date the court rules on the motion.


Prepared by the liibulletin-ny Editorial Board.