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Wiesner v. Fontaine Truck Equipment Co.

December 18, 2007

DARRIN S. WIESNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FONTAINE TRUCK EQUIPMENT COMPANY, INC., AND FONTAINE TRAILER COMPANY, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

This matter comes before the court on defendants' separate motions to dismiss. Fontaine Truck Equipment Company ("FTEC") moves to dismiss on the grounds that it is an improper defendant. Fontaine Trailer Company ("Fontaine Trailer") moves to dismiss on the grounds that the complaint is time-barred. For the following reasons, FTEC's motion to dismiss is granted, and Fontaine Trailer's motion to dismiss is denied.

OVERVIEW

On May 6, 2004, plaintiff Darrin Wiesner was driving a tractor-trailer truck which was loaded with railroad-car wheel/axel assemblies. Plaintiff alleges that, when he slowed the vehicle in traffic, one or the chains that secured the wheel/axel assemblies failed, causing a wheel/axel assembly to crush the cab of the tractor and injure to him. Plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois against FTEC on March 23, 2006. In the original complaint, the plaintiff named his employer at the time of the incident, Klos Trucking Company, for discovery purposes only. Service was made upon FTEC's registered agent, the Corporation Service Company ("CSC") on April 12, 2006. The plaintiff amended the complaint to add Fontaine Trailer as a defendant on September 25, 2006, and served it on October 16, 2006. Fontaine Trailer then removed the matter to federal court.

ANALYSIS

The statute of limitations for a product liability action in Illinois expires two years after the "date on which the claimant knew, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have known, of the existence of the personal injury, death or property damage." 735 ILCS 5/13-213(d). Thus, a cause of action must be commenced within two years of the date of injury, unless the nature of the injury is such that it could not reasonably have been discovered during that time. Sille v. McCann Constr. Specialties Co., 265 Ill. App. 3d 1051, 1056 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994). Further, it is the duty of the plaintiff to inquire as to whether a cause of action exists. Id. The Illinois Supreme Court has repeatedly held that when the plaintiff's injury is caused by a "sudden traumatic event," such as an automobile accident, the cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitation begins to run, on the date the injury occurs. Golla v. General Motors Corp., 167 Ill. 2d 353, 362 (Ill. 1995).

In this case, the statute of limitations began on May 6, 2004 and expired on May 6, 2006. Because the plaintiff amended the complaint to add Fontaine Trailer as a defendant four and a half months after the statute of limitations expired, the court must decide whether the amendment "relates back" to the original date of the pleading. In federal court, Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in relevant part that:

(1) When an Amendment Relates Back. An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when:

(A) the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back;

(B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out--or attempted to be set out-in the original pleading; or

(C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment:

(i) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the merits; and

(ii) knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity.

In other words, "relation back" must either be permitted by Illinois law or satisfy the ...


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