Krupski v. Costa Crociere, S.p.A.

PETITIONER: Wanda Krupski
RESPONDENT: Costa Crociere, S.p.A.
LOCATION:

DOCKET NO.: 09-337
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2009-2010)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 560 US 538 (2010)
GRANTED: Jan 15, 2010
ARGUED: Apr 21, 2010
DECIDED: Jun 07, 2010

ADVOCATES:
Mark R. Bendure - for the petitioner
Robert S. Glazier - for the respondent

Facts of the case

In 2007, Wanda Krupski booked a trip with Costa Cruise Lines. On February 21 while on the trip, Ms. Krupski allegedly tripped over a loose cable and broker her femur. She filed suit in a Florida federal district court against Costa Cruise Lines. One year and four days after her alleged injury, Costa Cruise Lines informed Ms. Krupski that it was merely the North American sales and booking agent for the carrier, Costa Crociere. The district court allowed Ms. Krupski to amend her complaint to include Costa Crociere and dismissed the action against Costa Cruise Lines. Costa Crociere then moved for summary judgment arguing the ticket sold to Ms. Krupski stipulated that suits must be filed against it within one year of the alleged injury. Therefore, Ms. Krupski was out of time. The district court agreed and granted Costa Crociere's motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, Ms. Krupski argued that her amended complaint against Costa Crociere related back to her original filing and thus should be considered timely filed against Costa Crociere. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit disagreed and affirmed the district court. The court held that her amended complaint did not relate back to her original complaint. The court reasoned that Ms. Krupski was aware that Costa Crociere was the carrier all along. Thus, to relate her amended complaint back to the original complaint was not the sort of mistaken identity correction contemplated by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure15(c)(1)(C).

Question

Does the Eleventh Circuit's construction of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C), which permits an amended complaint to relate back when the amendment corrects a "mistake concerning the proper party's identity," undermine the purpose of the rule?

Media for Krupski v. Costa Crociere, S.p.A.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 21, 2010 in Krupski v. Costa Crociere, S.p.A.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 07, 2010 in Krupski v. Costa Crociere, S.p.A.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Sotomayor has our opinion this morning in case 09-337 Krupski versus Costa Crociere.

Sonia Sotomayor:

Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs when an amended pleading “relate backs” to the date of a timely filed original pleading and is thus itself timely even though it's filed outside an applicable statute of limitations.

Where an amended pleading changes a party or party’s name, the rule requires among other things that within a certain time period after the pleading was filed, “party to be brought in by amendment knew or should have known that the action would've been brought against it but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity”.

In this case, the plaintiff, the petitioner here was a passenger on a cruise ship when she tripped and broke her leg.

To recover for her injury, she sued a company called Costa Cruise which had issued her ticket.

Costa Cruise responded that she should have sued a related company called Costa -- I am going to ask my colleague Justice Scalia to say it right.

Antonin Scalia:

Crociere

Sonia Sotomayor:

Crociere-- I want to put the Spanish accent on it.

Crociere instead after the statute of limitations had expired, she amended her complaint to add Costa Crociere but the District Court held that her complaint did not relate back because she had chosen to sue Costa Cruise instead of Costa Crociere and thus had not made a “mistake concerning the party of the proper party's identity.”

The Court of Appeals affirmed on two grounds, it first held that rule 15(c) was not satisfied because the plaintiff knew or should have known of the proper defendant before filing her original complaint.

The court also held that relation of that was not appropriate because the plaintiff had unduly delayed in seeking to amend.

We hold that neither of these reasons was a proper ground on which to deny relation back, relation back under rule 15(c) depends on what the party to be added knew or should have known, not on the amending the party's knowledge or timeliness in amending, this is clear from the text of the rule which focuses on what the party to be added knew or should have known.

Moreover that a plaintiff knows of a party's existence does not preclude her from making a mistake with respect to the party's identity, making a deliberate choice to sue one party instead of another while fully understanding the factual and legal difference between the two parties is the antithesis of making a mistake concerning the proper party's identity.

However a plaintiff may choose to sue one defendant over another, based on a misunderstanding about their own identities that kind of deliberate but mistaken choice should not foreclose a finding that rule 15(c) has been satisfied.

Similarly there is no support in the rule for the conclusion that a plaintiff’s dilatory conduct can justify the denial of relation back under rule 15(c).

The rule sets forth an exclusive list of requirements and the plaintiff's diligence is not among them.

Under these principles, the court below erred and in denying relation back.

The plaintiff's original complaint explained that she meant to sue the company that “owned, operated, managed, supervised and controlled the ship on which she was injured”.

That complaint also indicated mistakenly that Costa Cruise performed these roles because Costa Crociere had constructive knowledge of the complaint within the time period specified by the rule, it should have known that it was not named as a defendant in that complaint, only because of the plaintiff's misunderstanding about which Costa entity was in charge of the ship.

Clearly “a mistake concerning the proper party's identity”.

Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Justice Scalia has filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.