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Legal Memorandum: Interpretation of the Relation Back Doctrine

Issue: How is the rule of relation back of an amended complaint in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to be construed?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Relation-back doctrine; Statute of limitations
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 272 Md. 481; 507 A.2d 613; 263 A.2d 853; 526 A.2d 46; 483 A.2d 43; 301 Md. 363; 730 F.2d 929; 61 F. Supp. 888; 257 Md. 542; 306 Md. 84
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)
Date: 05/01/2006

Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c) is nothing new; it was promulgated as a codification of the pre-existing “relation-back” doctrine in the common law.  See Anderson v. Abbott, 61 F. Supp. 888, 893 (W.D. Ky. 1945).  As Justice Holmes noted in New York Cent Co v. Kinney, 260 U.S. 340, 43 S. Ct. 122, 67 L. Ed. 294 (1922),

 

Of course an argument can be made on the other side, but when a defendant has had notice from the beginning that the plaintiff sets up and is trying to enforce a claim against it because of specified conduct, the reasons for the statute of limitations do not exist, and we are of opinion that a liberal rule should be applied.

Id., 260 U.S. at 346.  Cases that have cited New York Cent. Co. with approval over the ensuing years have included Greentree v. Fertitta, 338 Md. 621, 625 n.5, 659 A.2d 1325, 1327 n.5 (1995); Ott v. Kaiser-Georgetown Health Plan, 309 Md. 641, 653, 526 A.2d 46, 52 (1987); Cherry v. Brothers, 306 Md. 84, 92, 507 A.2d 613, 617 (1986); McSwain v. TriState Transportation, 301 Md. 363, 370, 483 A.2d 43, 46-47; (1984) and Ehrlich v. Board of Education, 257 Md. 542, 547-50, 263 A.2d 853, 856-57 (1970).

In a recent appellate case discussing Federal Rule […]

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