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Blair v. Durham

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Durham (Plaintiff) sued Blair (Defendant) after a board fell from a scaffold and injured her. Plaintiff originally alleged negligent conduct, but subsequently amended her complaint to allege negligence in construction of the scaffold. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A plaintiff may amend a complaint without creating a new cause of action for purposes of the statute of limitations, so long as the amended complaint arises out of the same transaction as the original. 

    Facts.

    Defendant was contracted to perform repairs in a building where Plaintiff was employed. During the course of the repairs, a board fell from a scaffold and struck Plaintiff, causing injury. Plaintiff’s initial complaint alleged that Defendant’s employees were negligent. Plaintiff later amended the complaint to allege instead that the scaffold was negligently constructed. Defendant sought to dismiss the amended complaint as barred by the statute of limitations. The court denied the motion and Defendant then appealed, claiming that the amendment created a new cause of action beyond the one-year statute of limitations. 

    Issue.

    Is an amended complaint, based upon the same transaction as the original complaint, a new cause of action for purposes of the statute of limitations? 

    Held.

    (Hamilton, J.) No. A plaintiff may amend a complaint without creating a new cause of action if it arises out of the same transaction as the original complaint.  Plaintiff’s original complaint of negligent conduct and her amended complaint of negligent construction were both  based upon the same duty owed to her by Defendant.  The original complaint was properly filed within the time required by the statute of limitations and the amendment did not create a new cause of action.  Affirmed. 

    Discussion.

    Contemporary authorities follow the rule of this case and customarily allow amendments to complaints without implicating the statute of limitations.  This rule encourages amendments, recognizing that the discovery process frequently leads to amended pleadings.  


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