Legal Memorandum: Substitution of a New Plaintiff in CA

Issue: Under California law, what determines whether additional claims requiring the substitution of a new plaintiff relate back to the original complaint?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Substitution of a new plaintiff; Originally name plaintiff; Amendment of complaint
Jurisdiction: California
Cited Cases: 279 P. 837; 108 P.2d 906; 119 Cal. Rptr. 729; 45 Cal. App. 3d 783; 17 Cal. 2d 13; 100 Cal. App. 37
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2001

The caselaw is replete with situations in which a court permitted an amendment of the complaint to substitute a new plaintiff for the originally named plaintiff.  E.g., Klopstock v. Superior Court, 17 Cal. 2d 13, 19-21, 108 P.2d 906, 909-10 (1941) (estate administrator substituted for legatee); California Air Resources Bd. v. Hart, 21 Cal. App. 4th 289, 300-01, 26 Cal Rptr. 2d 153, 160 (1993) (state substituted for state agency); Powers v. Ashton, 45 Cal. App. 3d 783, 790, 119 Cal. Rptr. 729, 734 (1975) (trial court abused discretion in refusing to permit trustees of trusts to substitute for administrator); Lindsey v. Superior Court, 100 Cal. App. 37, 279 P. 837, 839 (1929) (ward substituted for guardian).  In each of these cases, the deciding court determined that the substitution of one plaintiff for another was appropriate because the change was merely technical and had no impact on the nature of the action. 

As the court of appeals explained in Air Resources, an amendment to substitute a new plaintiff based on a technical defect is proper, but the process "may not be used to interject a new party into the litigation for the first time under the guise of a misnomer."  21 Cal. App. 4th at 300, 26 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 160.  Similarly, the Klopstock court found that the substitution of the administrator of the decedent’s estate in place of the […]

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