Wright v. PK Transp., No. 20120239–CA.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Utah
Writing for the CourtCHRISTIANSEN
Citation759 Utah Adv. Rep. 8,325 P.3d 894
PartiesMichael D. WRIGHT, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. PK TRANSPORT, Paradise Turf, and Richard Riding, Defendants and Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 20120239–CA.
Decision Date24 April 2014

325 P.3d 894
759 Utah Adv. Rep. 8

Michael D. WRIGHT, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
PK TRANSPORT, Paradise Turf, and Richard Riding, Defendants and Appellees.

No. 20120239–CA.

Court of Appeals of Utah.

April 24, 2014.


[325 P.3d 895]


Randy S. Kester, for Appellant.

Paul M. Belnap and David E. Brown, for Appellees.


Judge MICHELE M. CHRISTIANSEN authored this Memorandum Decision, in which Senior Judge RUSSELL W. BENCH concurred.1 JUDGE J. FREDERIC VOROS JR. concurred, with opinion.

Memorandum Decision

CHRISTIANSEN, Judge:

¶ 1 Michael D. Wright appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants Paradise Turf and Richard Riding (Appellees). We affirm.

¶ 2 The underlying cause of action involves a negligence claim stemming from a car accident that occurred on September 26, 2003. Wright filed a complaint against defendants PK Transport and William Dunn (the original defendants) on February 5, 2007, approximately seven months before the controlling four-year statute of limitations expired.2See Utah Code Ann. § 78B–12–25(3) (LexisNexis 2002); DOIT, Inc. v. Touche, Ross & Co., 926 P.2d 835, 842 (Utah 1996) (explaining that negligence claims are governed by the catch-

[325 P.3d 896]

all four-year statute of limitations). On March 24, 2009, a full year and a half after the statute of limitations expired, Wright filed an amended complaint in which he added Appellees as additional defendants.3 Appellees moved to dismiss Wright's complaint, arguing that the statute of limitations barred his claim. While recognizing that the statute of limitations had expired, Wright argued that amendment of his complaint was proper under the relation-back doctrine set forth in rule 15(c) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. SeeUtah R. Civ. P. 15(c) (“Whenever the claim or defense 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, the amendment relates back to the date of the original pleading.”). Wright also moved for a continuance under rule 56(f), stating that no discovery had been conducted as to Appellees and that additional discovery would produce evidence of an identity of interest between the original defendants and Appellees. See id. R. 56(f).

¶ 3 Because the parties had “provided extensive recitations of factual assertions made outside the pleadings,” the district court converted Appellees' motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. See id. R. 12(b); id. R. 56(c); see also Oakwood Vill. LLC v. Albertsons, Inc., 2004 UT 101, ¶ 12, 104 P.3d 1226. The district court determined that Wright's addition of Appellees in the amended complaint did not relate back to the original complaint and, therefore, that Wright's claims against Appellees were barred by the statute of limitations. The court then entered judgment in favor of Appellees, and Wright appeals.

¶ 4 On appeal, Wright argues that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Appellees. Wright asserts that the district court “misinterpreted the law” and incorrectly applied the relation-back doctrine in concluding that Wright's addition of Appellees did not relate back to the original complaint. “Summary judgment is appropriate only where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Basic Research, LLC v. Admiral Ins. Co., 2013 UT 6, ¶ 5, 297 P.3d 578. “An appellate court reviews a trial court's legal conclusions and ultimate grant or denial of summary judgment for correctness, and views the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶ 6, 177 P.3d 600 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

¶ 5 “[T]here are limited circumstances when a claim against a new party may relate back to the original complaint. Utah courts have allowed the relation back of amendments to complaints incorporating newly named parties in two types of cases: (1) in so called misnomer cases, and (2) where there is a true identity of interest.” Ottens v. McNeil, 2010 UT App 237, ¶ 43, 239 P.3d 308 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A misnomer case occurs when the correct party is served but the complaint contains some technical defect in the identification of the party. Penrose v. Ross, 2003 UT App 157, ¶ 12, 71 P.3d 631. No such misnomer is alleged to exist here. Thus, the principal question before us is whether Appellees shared an “identity of interest” with the original defendants. To prevail on his relation-back argument based on an identity of interest, Wright must establish two elements:

(1) the amended pleading alleged only claims that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading and (2) the added party had received (actual or constructive) notice that it would have been a proper party to the original pleading such that no prejudice would result from preventing the new party from using a statute of limitations defense that otherwise would have been available.

Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).


¶ 6 The first element of the identity of interest analysis—whether Wright's amendment was based on the same core of facts or

[325 P.3d 897]

occurrence set forth in his original complaint—is not in dispute. Rather, Wright argues that the district court erred in evaluating the second element—notice—by solely considering constructive notice under the Notice Transfer Test and failing to consider whether Appellees had received actual notice of the litigation.

I. Notice

¶ 7 In its written ruling granting summary judgment ruling, the district court stated, “According to the Utah Court of Appeals, in a case directly on point, ‘relation back in the context of adding parties after the statute of limitations has expired is dependent ... on whether ... the legal positions of the original and proposed party are the same.’ ” (Quoting Ottens v. McNeil, 2010 UT App 237, ¶ 54, 239 P.3d 308) (second omission in original). The court's statement refers to what has become known as the “Notice Transfer Test,” see Ottens, 2010 UT App 237, ¶ 45, 239 P.3d 308, and is an accurate statement of the law to the extent that a party seeks to establish constructive notice under that test. But that is not the only analysis a court must undertake to determine whether relation back is appropriate. Indeed, in Ottens we explained that the Notice Transfer Test is only “[o]ne of the ways to establish notice.” Id.; see also Gary Porter Constr. v. Fox Constr., Inc., 2004 UT App 354, ¶ 42, 101 P.3d 371 (“[T]he Notice Transfer Test is a test for constructive notice, and is merely one way of demonstrating that an added party had sufficient notice to avoid prejudice.”). If constructive notice is not established, a court must also consider actual notice. Ottens, 2010 UT App 237, ¶ 50, 239 P.3d 308. Accordingly, because we concluded in Ottens that one of the added defendants did not have constructive notice within the limitations period under the Notice Transfer Test, we also considered “whether [the added defendant's] actual knowledge [could] be shown from other circumstances.” Id.

¶ 8 The case of Gary Porter Construction v. Fox Construction, Inc., 2004 UT App 354, 101 P.3d 371, provides further support for a two-part notice analysis. There, an excavation subcontractor brought an action against a general contractor. Id. ¶ 6. The subcontractor later amended its complaint to add a surety as an additional defendant. Id. The district court granted the surety's motion for summary judgment after determining that no identity of interest existed between the surety and the original defendant contractor and ruling that the amended complaint did not relate back to the original complaint under rule 15(c). Id. ¶ 8. On appeal, we observed that “the parties and the trial court focused only upon the Notice Transfer Test” and that “[a]pplication of the relation back doctrine also would be appropriate if [the surety] had sufficient actual notice of the original pleading prior to the running of the statute of limitations.” Id. ¶ 45. We noted that there were some indications that [the surety] did have actual notice,” id. ¶ 45 n. 13 (emphasis added), so we reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded “for a determination of whether [the surety] had actual notice of the nature of [the plaintiff's] claims against [the original defendant], ... before the statute of limitations ran,” id....

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3 practice notes
  • Highlands at Jordanelle, LLC v. Wasatch Cnty., No. 20130445–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • July 9, 2015
    ...or if there is a “true identity of interest” between the new party and the original party. Wright v. PK Transp., 2014 UT App 93, ¶ 5, 325 P.3d 894 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). ¶ 49 A true identity of interest exists if (1) “ ‘the amended pleading alleged only claims that......
  • Highlands At Jordanelle, LLC v. Wasatch Cnty. & Wasatch Cnty. Fire Prot. Special Serv. Dist., No. 20130445-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • July 9, 2015
    ...or if there is a "true identity of interest" between the new party and the original party. Wright v. PK Transp., 2014 UT App 93, ¶ 5, 325 P.3d 894 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).¶49 A true identity of interest exists if (1) "'the amended pleading alleged only claims that ar......
  • White v. Jeppson, No. 20120997–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • April 24, 2014
    ...from the investment is a clear example of where expert testimony is not needed. The gravity of investment advisors misrepresenting their [325 P.3d 894]participation in an investment and the consequence of lying about, or even exaggerating, the return they have received on their investment i......
3 cases
  • Highlands at Jordanelle, LLC v. Wasatch Cnty., No. 20130445–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • July 9, 2015
    ...or if there is a “true identity of interest” between the new party and the original party. Wright v. PK Transp., 2014 UT App 93, ¶ 5, 325 P.3d 894 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). ¶ 49 A true identity of interest exists if (1) “ ‘the amended pleading alleged only claims that......
  • Highlands At Jordanelle, LLC v. Wasatch Cnty. & Wasatch Cnty. Fire Prot. Special Serv. Dist., No. 20130445-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • July 9, 2015
    ...or if there is a "true identity of interest" between the new party and the original party. Wright v. PK Transp., 2014 UT App 93, ¶ 5, 325 P.3d 894 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).¶49 A true identity of interest exists if (1) "'the amended pleading alleged only claims that ar......
  • White v. Jeppson, No. 20120997–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • April 24, 2014
    ...from the investment is a clear example of where expert testimony is not needed. The gravity of investment advisors misrepresenting their [325 P.3d 894]participation in an investment and the consequence of lying about, or even exaggerating, the return they have received on their investment i......

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