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Arch Specialty Ins. Co. v. Kubicki Draper, LLP, Case No. 4D12-3560 (4th DCA)

I n Arch Specialty , the Fourth DCA reversed the trial court’s denial of a motion to amend a complaint to correct a misnomer in the plaintiff’s name. Arch Specialty brought a legal malpractice action against Kubicki Draper, after Arch Specialty had retained Kubicki Draper to represent an accounting firm insured by Arch Specialty in a lawsuit against the accounting firm. Kubicki Draper later withdrew from representing the accounting firm, after which a settlement was reached in the underlying lawsuit. The legal malpractice claim against Kubicki Draper followed.

In 2012, almost five years after the settlement which prompted the legal malpractice action, Kubicki Draper moved for summary judgment against Arch Specialty, arguing that the named plaintiff was not the accurate entity name of the insurance company and thus the plaintiff lacked standing to sue. Kubicki argued that “Arch Insurance” was the entity who retained Kubicki Draper and insured the accounting firm, not “Arch Specialty.” The Fourth DCA noted that the exhibits presented by Kubicki Draper in support of its motion for summary judgment demonstrated that Arch Insurance and Arch Specialty had common directors, the same secretary and the same address. Therefore, the court found that a clear identity of interest existed between the two entities. Arch Specialty moved for leave to amend its complaint to correct the plaintiff’s name. The trial court effectively denied the motion when it granted Kubicki Draper’s summary judgment motion.

The Fourth DCA noted that it is well-settled that “the rule permitting amendments to pleadings, and the relation-back doctrine, are to be liberally construed and applied.” The court further noted that where there is no doubt regarding the identity of the party intended to be named, it is not unfair or unjust to permit a plaintiff to correct its pleading particularly because the defendant suffers no prejudice. The Fourth DCA found that while the incorrect plaintiff was named, there was no doubt that the identity of the intended plaintiff was the insurance company which came out of pocket to pay the underlying settlement, which prompted the legal malpractice claim. The Court ruled that the trial court erred in denying the motion to amend and granting the summary judgment, because Arch Specialty sought merely to correct a misnomer, which would not prejudice Kubicki Draper.

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