United States District Court, D. New Mexico
COY E. FISHER, Plaintiff,
JEFFERY L. ROBERTSON, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE CARMEN E. GARZA CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant MS Directional,
LLC's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Adhere to the
Statute of Limitation (the “Motion”), (Doc.
72), filed November 1, 2019; Plaintiff Coy E. Fisher's
Response to Defendant MS Directional, LLC. d/b/a MS
Energy Services, LLC's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to
Adhere to the Statute of Limitations (the
“Response”), (Doc. 73), filed November 14, 2019;
and Defendant's Reply in Support of It's Motion
to Dismiss for Failure to Adhere to Statute of
Limitations (the “Reply”), (Doc. 77), filed
November 25, 2019. In accordance with Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 73(b), all parties have consented to the
Undersigned to conduct dispositive proceedings and issue a
final judgment in this matter. See (Doc. 17); 28
U.S.C. § 636(c). Having reviewed the parties'
filings and the relevant law, the Court finds the Motion is
well-taken and shall be GRANTED.
case arises from a January 3, 2015, automobile accident.
(Doc. 1-1 at 2). On the afternoon of January 3, 2015,
Defendant Jeffery Robertson's vehicle collided with
Richard Langley's truck. (Doc. 73 at 1). Plaintiff Coy E.
Fisher was a back-seat passenger in Mr. Langley's truck
and was injured as a result of the collision. (Doc. 1-1 at
2). Defendant ACCC Insurance Company insured Defendant
Robertson's vehicle at the time of the accident.
December 27, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit in the Fifth Judicial
District, Eddy County, State of New Mexico. (Doc. 1-1 at 1).
Several months later, Defendant ACCC Insurance Company
removed the case to the United States District Court for the
District of New Mexico. (Doc. 1 at 5). Plaintiff Fisher then
filed an Amended Complaint on July 17, 2019, adding Defendant
MS Directional to this action. (Doc. 53). Plaintiff contends
Defendant MS Directional was Defendant Robertson's
employer at the time of the collision, and Defendant
Robertson was acting within the course and scope of his
employment when the accident occurred. Id. at 4.
MS Directional now moves to dismiss the claims against it,
arguing Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is barred by the
statute of limitations. (Doc. 72 at 2). In response,
Plaintiff contends “MS Directional was or should have
been aware of the accident in question, ” and as a
result, the “relation-back” doctrine applies.
(Doc. 73 at 3). In its Reply, Defendant MS Directional argues
Plaintiff does not meet the required criteria to satisfy the
relation-back doctrine, and the statute of limitations has
already expired, precluding the addition of another
Defendant. (Doc. 77 at 5). Therefore, Defendant MS
Directional requests the Court dismiss it as a party from
this lawsuit. Id. at 7.
federal court with jurisdiction based on diversity of the
parties' citizenship must apply “federal procedural
law and state substantive law.” Jones v. United
Parcel Service, Inc., 674 F.3d 1187, 1203 (10th Cir.
2012). Specifically, as a case invoking diversity
jurisdiction and alleging personal injury under New Mexico
law, the present claims against MS Directional are subject to
a three-year statute of limitations period. See NMSA
1978, § 37-1-8. When a defendant asserts a statute of
limitations defense in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must
accept all well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true and
view the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Lymon v. Aramark Corp., 728 F.Supp.2d 1207, 1215
(D.N.M. 2010) (citing Sunrise Valley, LLC v.
Kempthorne, 528 F.3d 1251, 1254 (10th Cir.
2008)). A defendant's challenge to the proper statute of
limitations period is considered a “substantive
affirmative defense” for purposes of the choice of law
doctrine. Aldrich v. McCulloch Properties, Inc., 627
F.2d 1036, 1041 (10th Cir. 1980).
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) governs when amended pleadings
will “relate back” to the date of the original
pleading for purposes of preserving the statute of
limitations. See Garrett v. Fleming, 362 F.3d 692,
696 (10th Cir. 2004); Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c). Specifically, Rule
15(c) provides four criteria, all of which must be satisfied
before a claim can relate back to the original pleading: (1)
the claim arises out of the conduct set forth in the original
pleading; (2) the added party received such notice that it
will not be prejudiced in maintaining its defense; (3) the
party must have known, or should have known, that but for a
mistake in identifying the correct party, the action would
have been brought against it; and (4) the second and third
requirements were satisfied within the prescribed limitation.
Lymon, 728 F.Supp.2d at 1217. The United States
Supreme Court has distinguished the second and third
requirements, instructing lower courts to consider a
plaintiff's carelessness in ascertaining the correct
defendant under the second “prejudice” prong, and
not the third prong which examines solely the defendant's
knowledge. Krupski v. Costa Crociere S. p. A., 560
U.S. 538, 541 (2010) (“We hold that relation back under
Rule 15(c)(1)(C) depends on what the party to be added knew
or should have known, not on the amending party's
knowledge or its timeliness in seeking to amend the
automobile accident that gave rise to this litigation
occurred on January 3, 2015. (Doc. 1-1 at 2). As a result,
the statute of limitations period expired on January 3, 2018.
(Doc. 72 at 2). Plaintiff amended his Original Complaint to
add Defendant MS Directional on July 17, 2019, over 18 months
after the statute of limitations period had elapsed. (Doc.
53). Defendant MS Directional now seeks dismissal from this
lawsuit, but Plaintiff contends his Amended Complaint relates
back to his Original Complaint and his claims against
Defendant MS Directional should therefore be considered
timely. (Doc. 73 at 3-4).
MS Directional concedes the first element of Rule 15(c) is
satisfied, that the claims in Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint arise out of the same conduct alleged in
Plaintiff's Original Complaint. (Doc. 72 at 3)
(“[T]he amended complaint is comprised of claims
arising out of the same occurrence [as the original
complaint.]”). However, the parties dispute that
Defendant MS Directional received notice and that it knew, or
should have known, the present action would be brought
against it. See (Doc. 72); (Doc. 73). The Court will
address each of the disputed elements in turn.
Plaintiff must demonstrate that Defendant MS Directional
“received notice of the action, ” to prevent it
from being “prejudiced in defending [it] on the
merits.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(C)(i).
Plaintiff does not address the notice issue or any potential
prejudice Defendant MS Directional would experience as a
result of the new allegations in the Amended Complaint.
Indeed, Plaintiff's only argument regarding potential
prejudice to Defendant MS Directional is that it “would
in no way be prejudiced by Plaintiff's amended
complaint.” (Doc. 73 at 3-4). Most notably, in his
briefing, Plaintiff omits the portion of Rule 15(c) which
states that the defendant must receive notice to avoid a
prejudicial impact. See Id. at 3 (skipping from FRCP
15(c)(1)(C)(ii), after omitting FRCP
15(c)(1)(C)(i)). Conversely, Defendant MS
Directional argues it would experience prejudice, principally
because more than four years have elapsed since the accident
that undermines this litigation took place. (Doc. 72 at 4);
see also, id. at 5 (“MS Directional
is prejudiced as it did not receive even cursory notice
within the time limit allowed by statute.”).
Plaintiff's failure to present evidence demonstrating
that the second element of Rule 15(c) is satisfied,
Plaintiff's argument for the applicability of the
relation-back doctrine fails on the third element. Under Rule
15(c)(1)(C)(ii), Plaintiff must prove that Defendant MS
Directional “knew or should have known that the action
would have been brought against it, but for a mistake
concerning the proper party's identity.” While an
employer may be aware of the possible threat of litigation if
an employee has an automobile accident during his work shift,
Plaintiff has failed to raise this common-sense argument or
provide any factual support to his contention beyond one
fragmented sentence. Specifically, Plaintiff's entire
argument regarding MS Directional's purported knowledge
of the litigation is that “MS Directional was or should
have been aware of the accident in question.” (Doc. 73
at 3-4). In response, Defendant MS Directional contends it
“was not named, served, nor ...