Legal Memorandum: "Relation Back" Doctrine in CA

Issue: Under California law, will an amendment to a complaint that names a subsequently-appointed administrator be deemed to relate back to the original complaint?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: "Relation back" doctrine; Amendment to complaint; Subsequently-appointed administrator
Jurisdiction: California
Cited Cases: 215 Cal. App. 3d 961; 535 N.E.2d 8; 414 F. Supp. 1157; 447 N.E.2d 982; 385 A.2d 466; 92 F.3d 258; 73 So. 2d 844; 264 Cal. Rptr. 12; 405 S.W.2d 742; 35 F. Supp. 577; 293 S.E.2d 85
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2001

The only California case on point, Coats v. K-Mart Corp., 215 Cal. App. 3d 961, 968, 264 Cal. Rptr. 12, 16 (1989), indicates that the court has the discretion to apply the "relation back" doctrine in such a situation, although under the facts of that case, the court did not allow the amendment.  The facts here, however, are distinguishable and, accordingly, this matter is appropriate for application of the "relation back" doctrine.

Coats involved a wrongful death claim brought by the mother of an adult who died after an altercation with employees of the defendant corporation. Id. at 964, 264 Cal. Rptr. at 13.  The decedent also apparently had a daughter who may have been the proper party to be appointed personal representative of her father’s estate.  Without making any effort to be appointed the personal representative of her son’s estate, the mother commenced an action against the defendant in 1981, alleging that she was the administrator of the estate.  She was not appointed administrator until five years later.  Id. at 965, 264 Cal. Rptr. at 14.  In determining that the action was deemed to have been filed in 1986, the trial court indicated that in order to have represented to the court that she was the administrator, she "must have filed the petition for appointment of her as an administrator."  Id. at 965, 264 Cal. Rptr. at 14.  The appellate court found that the trial court had […]

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