Copyright (c) 2004 School of Law, Santa Clara University
Santa Clara Law Review
ARTICLE: RELATION BACK OF AMENDED COMPLAINTS: THE CALIFORNIA COURTS SHOULD ADOPT A MORE PRAGMATIC APPROACH
44 Santa Clara L. Rev. 643
Walter W. Heiser*
Most jurisdictions have adopted some form of doctrine that will permit an amended complaint to relate back to the date of the filing of the original complaint, for purposes of avoiding the bar of the statute of limitations. For example the federal court doctrine, set forth in Rule 15(c)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, states that an amendment relates back to the date of the original pleading when the claim asserted in the amended pleading "arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence" set forth in the original pleading. 1 California's relation-back doctrine is the product of judge-made law and provides, in general terms, that an amended complaint relates back if it rests on the "same general set of facts" as alleged in the original complaint. 2
When the California Supreme Court announced this modern relation-back standard in Austin v. Massachusetts Bonding & Insurance Co., the avowed purpose was to broaden the right of a party to amend a pleading without incurring the bar of the statute of limitations. 3 The modern rule was intended both to avoid the danger of narrow construction that older tests involved and to further the policy that cases should be decided on their merits. 4 However, subsequent California court decisions have placed additional restrictions on the "same general set of facts" standard. These decisions typically state the current relation-back doctrine as requiring that the amended complaint must (1) rest on the "same general set of facts," (2) ...
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