No Harm, No Foul For Naming Incorrect Defendant in Lawsuit

Author: Tyler A. Moore

Plaintiff was a guest at the Clarion Hotel in Alexandria when she allegedly tripped over an uneven surface while walking in the hotel’s restaurant.  She claimed severe and debilitating injuries as a result of her fall.  She filed suit exactly one year from the date of her alleged injury and named Choice Hotels, Inc., whom she believed to be the owner and operator of the hotel, as a defendant.  Triad Hospitality, who was the actual owner and operator of the hotel, was not named in the initial petition.

Choice Hotels, Inc. filed a peremptory exception of no cause of action, which was granted, and plaintiff filed an amended petition substituting “Clarion Hotel, through its manager, 2716 N. MacArthur Drive, Alexandria, Louisiana,” as defendant.  Triad filed an exception of prescription and contended that the amended petition filed more than a year after the accident did not relate back to the original filing against Choice Hotels, Inc.  The trial court agreed; Triad’s exception was granted and plaintiff’s suit was dismissed.  Plaintiff appealed.

Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court and found the amended petition to be timely because it related back to the date of filing of the original petition, under La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 1153.  The court applied the four-part test presented by the Louisiana Supreme Court in Ray v. Alexandria Mall to determine whether Article 1153 allows an amendment that changes the identity of the defendant to relate back to the original petition.  First, plaintiff’s amended claim against Triad arose out of the accident for which she sought redress in the original, timely filed petition.  Second, Triad incurred no prejudice in its ability to perform an investigation of the claim.  Third, Triad should have known, but for plaintiff’s mistake in suing Choice Hotels, Inc., the action would have been brought against it.  Last, the amendment was made to correct an incorrectly named defendant, rather than adding a wholly new and unrelated defendant.  Despite the misnomer, plaintiff made it clear in the original petition that she intended to pursue a claim against the hotel located at 2716 N. MacArthur Drive in Alexandria, Louisiana.  Therefore, the Court of Appeals found merit to plaintiff’s argument that the amended petition related back to the original filing and was therefore timely.

Holmes v. Triad Hospitality, 2011-1486 (La. App. 3rd Cir. 5/16/12); 2012 WL 1694593.