An associate with the Firm was recently successful in a motion to quash service on a client for improper use of a “Doe Amendment”. When properly used, Doe Amendments allow plaintiffs to add later-discovered defendants to a lawsuit even if the statute of limitations has already run. However, they cannot be used if the plaintiff already knew that defendant’s identity at the time of filing the complaint.
While there was no direct evidence of the plaintiff’s knowledge of the client’s identity at the time of filing the complaint, the Firm was able to establish substantial circumstantial evidence that the plaintiff at least had possession of documents showing the client’s identity throughout the two years preceding the complaint. Based on the documents the Firm moved that the plaintiff must therefore have known the client’s identity at some point, and that the failure to name the client in the complaint was not done in good faith.
The plaintiff filed an opposition essentially arguing that the plaintiff’s law firm was disorganized, that it had lost or misfiled documents, had very high staff turnover, and that these issues had caused the plaintiff to be genuinely unaware of the client’s identity. In reply, the Firm argued the plaintiff still must have seen some of the documents which would have identified the client, and that a good faith attempt was still not made to correct the mistake.
In its rulling the Court agreed with the Firm’s argument and analysis, and granted the motion. In its ruling it noted the negligence of the plaintiff’s attorney and the “woeful incompetence” of his staff. At oral argument, the plaintiff’s attorney admitted that someone in his firm could have known the client’s identity at some point, and the judge affirmed the tentative ruling.
As a result of this motion, the client was able to avoid being added as a defendant in the lawsuit.