Plaintiffs must properly identify defendants prior to filing a lawsuit. While it is possible to amend a complaint to add a defendant at a later time, it is imperative to do so prior to the date that the statute of limitation expires. The statute of limitations is a window of time in which legal action must be taken. In the state of Florida, an individual has four years from the date of the accident to take legal action. Failure to identify a defendant properly within this time frame could lead to the plaintiff’s claim being barred altogether.
In Russ v. Williams, the plaintiff was injured in an automobile wreck. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the defendant, claiming he was the owner and driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident. The defendant denied the accusations. Approximately one week after the statute of limitations had expired, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that his wife was the owner and driver of the car when the crash took place.
In response to this new information, the plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint in order to substitute the wife for the husband in the complaint. The defendant then filed a response opposing the motion, arguing that adding his wife was not permitted because she was an entirely new party and the statute of limitations had already expired. The plaintiff argued that, since the amended complaint would relate back to the original complaint, it was permissible. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff and allowed her to file the amended complaint.