Relation Back Doctrine

Professional negligence claims are timely amended allegations pertaining to specific acts of negligence related back to original complaint. Pointe San Diego Residential Community L.P. v. Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, LLP, (No. D056533 California Courts of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, May 10, 2011).

In this case, three entities sued their former attorneys alleging professional negligence and related claims. The court entered judgment in efendants favor after sustaining a demurrer without leave to amend and granting a judgment on the pleadings on plaintiff’s fourth amended complaint.  The court concluded that each of the claims were barred by the statute of limitations and the relation-back doctrine was napplicable.

The appeals court reversed determining the claims related back to an earlier, timely filed complaint.

An amended complaint is deemed a new action for purposes of the statute of limitations only if the claims do not “relate-back” to an earlier timely filed complaint.  An amendment relates back to the original complaint if it rests on the same facts and involves the same injury.  In this case, the initial complaint placed the law firm on notice of the identity of the plaintiffs and the nature of their claims.  The amended allegations
pertaining to specific acts of negligence occurring in the law firm’s representation of the plaintiffs in the underlying litigation related back to
the original complaint’s general allegations of negligence.  Thus, the claims related back to the earlier, timely filed complaint.

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