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Richardson v. All Services Unlimited, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

December 14, 2017

JACOB RICHARDSON, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
ALL SERVICES UNLIMITED, INC., an Arizona corporation, Defendant/Appellee.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Coconino County No. S0300CV201400015 The Honorable Mark R. Moran, Judge

          Ahwatukee Legal Office PC, Phoenix By David L. Abney Co-Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant

          The Voightmann Law Firm PC, Scottsdale By Craigg M. Voightmann, Peter T. Donovan Co-Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant

          The Herzog Law Firm PC, Scottsdale By Michael W. Herzog Counsel for Defendant/Appellee

          Judge Randall M. Howe delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Kenton D. Jones and Judge Donn Kessler [1] joined.

          OPINION

          HOWE, Judge

         ¶1 Jacob Richardson appeals the trial court's judgment that the statute of limitations barred his claim against All Services Unlimited, Inc. ("All Services"). The issue presented is whether a plaintiffs unawareness that a party may have been responsible for the plaintiff's injury constitutes a mistake as to the identity of the proper party under Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(2), so that amending the complaint adding that party relates back to the original complaint for purposes of the statute of limitations. We hold that it does and reverse the granting of summary judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2 Richardson, an ironworker employed by Arizona Steel Construction and Repair, Inc., was injured on January 25, 2012, while working at a property owned by Bellemont Truck Repair and Towing, Inc., Bellemont Truck Repair, LLC, and Larry Oldaker (collectively, "Bellemont Truck"). On January 10, 2014, Richardson filed a complaint alleging that Bellemont Truck had control of the property during the construction project, and its negligent maintenance of the property caused Richardson's injury.

         ¶3 Thereafter, in March 2014, Richardson learned that Bellemont Truck had employed All Services as a general contractor for the project. Richardson amended his complaint to add All Services as a defendant based on its role as the general contractor for the construction project.

         ¶4 All Services moved for summary judgment, arguing that the statute of limitations set forth in A.R.S. § 12-542 barred Richardson's action because he did not file the amended complaint within two years of his injury. It also argued that Richardson could not claim that his amendment related back to the original complaint under Rule 15(c)(2) because Richardson had not made a mistake regarding the identity of the correct defendant. It further asserted that Arizona's discovery rule did not allow Richardson to name All Services as a defendant after the limitations period ran because he had not made a reasonable inquiry about the existence of other potentially liable entities.

         ¶5 Richardson responded that the amended complaint related back to the original complaint under Rule 15(c) because he reasonably believed that Bellemont Truck was acting as both landowner and general contractor for the project. He also maintained that, at minimum, a factual question existed whether he had exercised reasonable diligence in investigating the persons responsible for his injury; therefore, the discovery rule applied and his cause of action did not accrue until he learned that All Services was the general contractor for the construction project.

         ¶6 The trial court determined that Richardson was not mistaken about Bellemont Truck's identity as a proper party, but instead, was mistaken that another potential defendant existed. Relying on Tyman v. Hintz Concrete, Inc.,214 Ariz. 73 (2006), and Levinson v. Jarrett ex. rel Cty. of Maricopa,207 Ariz. 472 (App. 2004), the court ruled that Richardson's mistake did not satisfy Rule 15(c)'s requirements. Thus, the trial court granted summary ...


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