Legal Memorandum: "Relation Back" of Amendments

Issue: What is the standard under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for determining whether an amended complaint relates back to the original complaint?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Relation back; Amendment; Original complaint
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)
Date: 05/01/2006

The standards for determining whether the “relation-back” feature of Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c) is properly applicable have, most recently, been set forth Arthur v. Maersk, Inc., No. 04-3670 (3d Cir. Jan. 13, 2006), in which the court opined that under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c):


The relation back inquiry is more circumscribed.  Rule 15(c) enumerates three distinct prerequisites for an amendment to relate back to the original complaint: (1) the claims in the amended complaint must arise out of the same occurrences set forth in the original complaint, (2) the party to be brought in by amendment must have received notice of the action within 120 days of its institution, and (3) the party to be brought in by amendment must have known, or should have known, that the action would have been brought against the party but for a mistake concerning its identity.  Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c).  Once these requirements are satisfied, Rule 15(c) instructs that the “amendment … relates back to the date of the original pleading.”  Id.; see also Varlack v. SWC Caribbean, Inc., 550 F.2d 171, 174-75 (3d Cir. 1977); 6A Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 1498 (2d ed. 1990).

Id., slip op. at 12-13.


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