A cruiseship passenger’s claim of a ship board trip-and-fall became the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this year after passenger Wanda Krupski brought a negligence claim in federal court against Costa Cruise Lines. Costa Cruise Lines waited for the plaintiff’s statute of limitations to expire, then moved to dismiss the case after pointing out that Ms. Krupski’s ticket named Costa Crociere S.p.A. as the proper party to sue, as distinct from Costa Cruise Lines which it identified as a sales and marketing agent only. The issue of interest to the Supreme Court is whether plaintiff could amend her complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c), to correct the legal entity name of the defendant and have it “relate back” to the filing date of her original lawsuit before her statute of limitations had expired. Using the occasion to resolve a split among the federal Circuit of Appeals courts, the Supreme Court held that “relating back” such an amendment is not unfairly prejudicial if the correct defendant had notice of the original action, and should have known that the action would have been brought against it but for the mistake concerning the proper party’s identity. Even though plaintiff’s ticket named the correct entity to sue, the Supreme Court held that the plain language of Rule 15(c) focuses on not on the plaintiff’s mistake alone, but whether the defendant knew of the lawsuit and whether it should have known that plaintiff had made a naming mistake. Given the similar names of the two entities and the complexities of corporate structures, the Supreme Court directed that plaintiff’s complaint can be amended to name the proper defendant entity, relating back to the original date of suit. (Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., 130 S.Ct. 2485, June 7, 2010).
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