Choose a Topic

View Our Case Results
Kelley/Uustal Practice Areas

Paul May v. HCA Health Services of Florida, Inc., Case No. 2D13-5626 (2nd DCA)

In May, the Second District reversed a summary judgment entered in favor of a hospital in a medical malpractice action, finding that the plaintiff had initially named the incorrect defendant based on a mere misnomer.

The plaintiff initially filed suit against Blake Medical Center Auxiliary after Jean May was discharged from Blake Medical Center, and suffered a severe stroke almost immediately after discharge. The plaintiff believed the Auxiliary was the medical center. The Auxiliary and the medical center share similar names, the same legal counsel and the same physical address. After receiving the complaint the Auxiliary filed a generic answer and affirmative defenses containing no factual allegations which would have put the plaintiff on notice that it was not a medical provider to Jean May. The Auxiliary later served more than eighty subpoenas to non-party medical providers and thirty-five requests for documents from additional non-party medical providers. One year into litigation, in March 2012, the Auxiliary moved for summary judgment, and revealed its relationship to the medical center, and that it was not a licensed healthcare provider or facility. The statute of limitations had run by that time. The plaintiff and the Auxiliary entered into a stipulation to substitute the medical center as the defendant in the suit, acknowledging that the plaintiff had mistakenly named the Auxiliary.

In October 2012, the plaintiff filed the amended complaint against the medical center. The medical center moved for summary judgment, arguing the statute of limitations had passed. The trial court found that the Auxiliary and the medical center were distinct entities, and entered summary judgment in the medical center's favor.

Typically, if a plaintiff sues the wrong entity, the mistake cannot be remedied after the period of limitations has elapsed. An exception to the general rule exists however when, after the limitations period has passed, a substitution of a corporation as a party defendant for another corporation amounts to no more than rectifying a misnomer. In that situation, the statute of limitations will not bar suit, and relation back to the original filing is permitted, if the new party will not be prejudiced. Relation back is usually applicable when the new party knew or should have known that the plaintiff had made a mistake or was guilty of a misnomer as to the correct identity of the defendant so that the added party is deemed to have suffered no prejudice by being tardily brought in or substituted as a party.

Several factors are considered in holding that a misnomer occurred. Those factors include an incorrectly named party's active participation in the litigation, the same counsel, the same physical address, the same directors or officers, the same registered agent and the same phone and fax numbers.

In May, the Second District highlighted the fact that the Auxiliary had conducted extensive discovery aimed at prolonging the litigation until the statute of limitations had expired. The Second District noted that while a defendant has no obligation to advise a plaintiff whom to sue, the trial of a lawsuit should be "a sincere effort to arrive at the truth." "It is no longer a game of chess in which the technique of the maneuver captures the prize." The Auxiliary's conducting discovery, together with the facts that it shared a similar name and the same counsel as the medical center, led the plaintiff to believe the correct defendant had been sued. As such, the Second District found that the plaintiff's naming the incorrect defendant was a mere misnomer. Therefore, the Second District reversed the summary judgment.

Recognized as One of the Nation's Best Law Firms

Don't just take our word for it. See it for yourself.

Client Reviews & Testimonials
  • AV Peer Review Rated
  • Florida Super Lawyers
  • South Florida Top Rated Lawyers
  • Best Law Firms
  • The Best Lawyers in America
  • The National Trial Lawyers - Top 100 Trial Lawyers
  • South Florida Business Journal - 2017  Best Places to Work
  • Sun Sentinel - 2017 Top Work Places
© 2014 All Rights Reserved The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.