Coverdale v. Witcher, C.A. No: CPU4-19-002673

CourtCourt of Common Pleas of Delaware
Writing for the CourtHORTON, J.
PartiesLADOSHA COVERDALE, Plaintiff, v. ANTWINE WITCHER, Individually and As Agent for CORIN DAVIS and DEAN DAVIS; CORIN DAVIS individually And as Agent for DEAN DAVIS, Defendant.
Docket NumberC.A. No: CPU4-19-002673
Decision Date03 December 2020

LADOSHA COVERDALE, Plaintiff,
v.
ANTWINE WITCHER, Individually and As Agent for CORIN DAVIS and DEAN DAVIS;
CORIN DAVIS individually And as Agent for DEAN DAVIS, Defendant.

C.A. No: CPU4-19-002673

COURT OF COMMON PLEAS FOR THE STATE OF DELAWARE IN AND FOR NEW CASTLE COUNTY

Reserved: August 3, 2020
December 3, 2020


Joseph J. Longobardi, III, Esquire
M. Jean Boyle, Esquire
Longobardi & Boyle, LLC
1700 Augustine Cut Off
Wilmington, DE 19803
(302) 575-1502
Attorneys for Plaintiff

Theordore J. Selgletes, III, Esquire
3 Mill Road, Suite 301
Wilmington, DE 19806
(302) 777-0100
Attorney for Defendants

ORDER REGARDING RELATION BACK OF CLAIMS AGAINST ANTWINE WITCHER

HORTON, J.

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FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 9, 2019, Ladosha Coverdale ("Coverdale") filed a Complaint against Dean Davis ("Dean"), alleging that on July 9, 2017, Dean was operating a vehicle when it collided with Coverdale and, as a result, Coverdale incurred medical expenses and other damages.

On September 30, 2019, Dean filed a Motion to Dismiss along with an affidavit stating that he was not operating the vehicle at the time the alleged collision occurred; rather, he had loaned it to his daughter, Corin Davis ("Corin"), who in turn allowed her friend, Antwine Witcher ("Witcher") to drive the car at the time of the accident.1 On October 15, 2019, Coverdale filed an Amended Complaint seeking to add Corin and Witcher as defendants. A hearing on both motions was held on October 25, 2019, during which the Court dismissed the suit against Dean without prejudice. During the hearing, Dean raised the issue of the relation back doctrine, particularly as it relates to Witcher whom had not yet been served. After discussion, Coverdale orally withdrew her Motion to Amend the Complaint as to Witcher until such time as Witcher could be served. The Court granted Coverdale's Motion as to Corin Davis, who was then added as a Defendant. On November 5, 2019, the Court granted Coverdale's Motion for Enlargement of Time to serve "Defendant(s)".2

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Notwithstanding the Court's October 25, 2019 ruling, Coverdale filed a subsequent Motion to Amend Complaint seeking to add Corin and/or Witcher on January 24, 2020. On January 28, 2020, Coverdale filed a second Motion for Enlargement of Time to serve "Defendant(s)." On February 7, 2020, the Court held a hearing on Coverdale's Motion to Amend Complaint, during which the Court re-addressed the issue of relation back. Coverdale denied that relation back remained an issue as "[the defendants] are all on notice within the statutory time frame for service of process." At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court granted both of Coverdale's motions, but reserved decision on relation back until the issue was raised again.3 On that same day, Coverdale filed an Amended Complaint that included Corin and Witcher in the caption.

On April 17, 2020, Coverdale filed a Motion to Deem Service Complete as to Witcher.4 A hearing on the Motion was held on August 3, 2020. At the hearing, both parties presented oral argument. The Court found that Coverdale did not provide evidence satisfactory to the Court to demonstrate proper service and denied the Motion. However, the Court did give Coverdale an additional 60 days to perfect service on Witcher. Additionally, the Court asked for argument on the pending

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relation back issue. The parties were not prepared to present an argument, so the Court ordered briefing on the issue.

PARTIES POSITIONS

It is Witcher's position that Coverdale cannot satisfy the relation back doctrine set forth in Court of Common Pleas Civil Rule 15(c) for three reasons: (1) Witcher did not have notice of the lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired; (2) it cannot be established that, but for a mistake, Witcher would have been properly named or given adequate notice of suit; and (3) Witcher did not receive adequate notice of the suit.

In contrast, Coverdale asserts that the relation back doctrine has been satisfied because: (1) Witcher had actual notice of the Amended Complaint before the expiration of the statute of limitations plus the service of summons 120 day period; (2) the claim asserted in the amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading; and (3) Witcher knew or should have known that, but for a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party, the action would have originally been brought against him. In support of her argument, Coverdale attached Exhibits that include: Witcher's alleged Facebook page, an affidavit from Coverdale's counsel, Facebook messages with an office paralegal, and photos of the Facebook messages with Witcher.

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ANALYSIS

The issue before the Court is whether claims against Witcher relate back to the date of Coverdale's Original Complaint and are thus not barred by the statute of limitations.5 Coverdale has the burden to demonstrate that the requirements have been met.6 In relevant part, Ct. Com. Pl. Civ. R. 15(c) provides that an amendment adding a party will relate back to the date of the original pleading if the following...

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