ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE:
JOHN P. YOUNG MICHAEL A. WILKINS
Young & Young GERMAINE WINNICK WILLETT
Indianapolis, Indiana Ice Miller Donadio & Ryan
SANDRA JEAN HUTCHISON and ) JESSICA ANN HUTCHISON, by next friend, ) JENNIFER A. HAMILTON, ) ) Appellants-Plaintiffs, ) ) vs. ) No. 49A02-9808-CV-697 ) OLD INDIANA LIMITED LIABILITY CO., ) d/b/a OLD INDIANA FAMILY FUN AND ) WATER PARK, OLD INDIANA ) DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, d/b/a ) OLD INDIANA FAMILY FUN AND WATER ) PARK and OLD INDIANA FAMILY FUN ) AND WATER PARK, ) ) Appellees-Defendants. )
immediate filing of a lawsuit to obtain information, and we feel it would also
assist both of us in evaluating this claim and being on an equal footing in the
negotiation of this claim.
Id. The record is not clear whether Frontier Adjusters ever responded to the letter; nor is the record clear concerning the events transpiring over the next several months.See footnote 2 In any event on February 28, 1995, counsel for the Hutchisons received a letter from a different insurance adjustment firm, Adjusting Services Unlimited. The letter made reference to a January 25, 1995, telephone conference between counsel and the adjustment firm and sought to arrange a meeting with the Hutchisons. R. at 58. Counsel responded to the letter on April 12, 1995, apologizing for the delay, indicating that his clients were out-of-state residents and thus it would be impossible to arrange a meeting with them, and inquiring whether medical payment insurance was available to pay some of the outstanding medical bills. R. at 59. On August 25, 1995, counsel for the Hutchisons received another letter from Adjusting Services Unlimited requesting copies of medical bills and doctor's reports along with any wage loss information. R. at 60. All correspondence between counsel for the Hutchisons and the insurance adjustment firms listed "Old Indiana Fun Park" as the insured.
conducted discovery. On June 18, 1998, the Liability Company filed a motion for summary
judgment contending the statute of limitations barred Sandra Jean Hutchison's claim.
the trial court and before this court, the Liability Company acknowledges that because
Jessica Ann Hutchison is a minor, her claim is not similarly barred.
After a hearing, the trial
court granted the motion. This appeal followed.
When reviewing the grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment, we apply the same standard as the trial court and we resolve all doubts in favor of the nonmoving party. Ebbinghouse v. FirstFleet, Inc., 693 N.E.2d 644, 646 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998), trans. denied. Summary judgment is appropriate only if the designated evidentiary matter shows there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ind. Trial Rule 56(C); Harkness v. Hall, 684 N.E.2d 1156, 1159 (Ind. Ct. App. 1997). In a summary judgment proceeding in which the movant raises an affirmative defense based on the statute of limitations, the movant need only make a prima facie showing that the cause of action was filed beyond the statutory period. Creighton v. Caylor-Nickel Hospital, Inc., 484 N.E.2d 1303, 1306 (Ind. Ct. App. 1985). The burden then falls on the opponent of the motion to establish the existence of a material fact in avoidance of the statute of limitations defense. Id.
There is no question that the Liability Company presented prima facie evidence that Mrs. Hutchison's complaint was filed beyond the two-year statutory time limit for personal injury claims. Mrs. Hutchison sustained injury on May 29, 1994, and the amended complaint against the Liability Company was filed August 21, 1996,--some 84 days beyond the time
period. However, Mrs. Hutchison contends the trial court nonetheless erred in granting
summary judgment in favor of the Liability Company because her amended complaint
related back to the date of filing the original complaint. The relation back of an amended
complaint is governed by Indiana Trial Rule 15(C) which provides in relevant part:
[w]henever the claim or defense asserted in the amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading, the amendment relates back to the date of the original pleading. An amendment changing the party against whom a claim is asserted relates back if the foregoing provision is satisfied and, within the period provided by law for commencing the action against him, the party to be brought in by amendment:
(1) has received such notice of the institution of the action that he will not be prejudiced in maintaining his defense on the merits; and
(2) knew or should have known that but for a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party, the action would have been brought against him.
Mrs. Hutchison insists that she has satisfied all of the requirements of the rule, including that of notice. She also contends the Liability Company offered no evidence that it would be prejudiced in the defense of her claim.
It is true that the "key to relation back under Trial Rule 15(C) is notice." Logan v. Schafer, 567 N.E.2d 855, 857 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991). And the notice need not be actual, rather it may be constructive. See Waldron v. Wilson, 532 N.E.2d 1154, 1157 (Ind. 1989) (Dickson, J., concurring) (filing of the original complaint against a farming corporation amounted to constructive notice to father and son defendants who were sole officers and directors of the corporation); see also Honda Motor Company, Ltd. v. Parks, 485 N.E.2d 644,
651 (Ind. Ct. App. 1985) ("Identity of interest" between one corporation and its wholly
owned subsidiary raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether notice to one
amounted to notice to the other for purposes of T.R. 15(C).). However, contrary to Mrs.
Hutchison's argument, T.R. 15(C) anticipates more than notice of the mere fact that an injury
has occurred or notice that the injured plaintiff has retained counsel. Rather, the party named
in the amended pleading must have received "notice of the institution of the action . . . ." Ind.
Trial Rule 15(C). In the context of a motion for summary judgment the burden rests with the
complainant to present Rule 56 materials demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue of
material fact on the question of whether the party named in the amended pleading received
either actual or constructive notice of the institution of legal action. Further the complainant
must also demonstrate that the notice was received by the party named in the amended
pleading "within the period provided by law for commencing the action." Fifer v. Soretore-
Dodds, 680 N.E.2d 889, 891 (Ind. Ct. App. 1997), reh'g denied (quoting T.R. 15(C)).
In this case there is nothing in the record showing the existence of a relationship between the Development Corporation and the Liability Company. Indeed Mrs. Hutchison does not contest the assertion that the Development Corporation and the Liability Company are two separate, unrelated, and distinct corporate entities. See Brief of Appellee at 2. Thus, we cannot apply the "indentity of interst" principle discussed in Parks, 485 N.E.2d at 651 and implied by Waldron, 532 N.E.2d at 1157. However, even assuming there is some relationship between the two entities such that notice to the Development Corporation can be considered as constructive notice to the Liability Company, Mrs. Hutchison's argument
still fails. First, the original complaint was filed on the last day of the running of the statute of limitations. The record shows that the Development Corporation was not served with the complaint and summons until July 22, 1996, which is 55 days outside of the statutory time period.See footnote 4 Thus the Liability Company did not receive notice "within the period provided by law for commencing the action." Fifer, 680 N.E.2d at 891. Second, the correspondence to the insurance adjustment firms and to the general manager of the Old Indiana Family Fun and Water Park never mentioned the institution of an action.See footnote 5 At most, the correspondence put the Liability Company on constructive notice that Mrs. Hutchison had retained an attorney and was considering a claim against the company. In fact, the only correspondence that even came close to asserting that a lawsuit may be commenced declared in part: "[t]he free exchange of this information to us would preclude the necessity of an immediate filing of a lawsuit to obtain information . . . ." R. at 57. This correspondence does not suggest that a lawsuit for damages would be filed against the Development Corporation. Rather, it merely suggests that suit may be filed to obtain discovery if the same were not forthcoming. No such action was ever filed. Thus, we presume counsel received the requested discovery. In the final analysis, the record before us simply does not support the contention that the Liability Company received notice either actual or constructive of the institution of a lawsuit
within the statutory time frame.See footnote
Absent such notice, Mrs. Hutchison's amended complaint
did not relate back to the filing of the original complaint. Accordingly we need not explore
whether other provisions of T.R. 56(C) were satisfied. The trial court properly granted
summary judgment in favor of the Liability Company.
BAKER, J., and BROOK, J., concur.
"[c]ounsel for plaintiff received no telephone call, letter, fax, e-mail or any
other communication from Old Indiana Limited Liability company d/b/a Old
Indiana Family Fun and Water Park, or its agents indicating that Hutchison
was not using the proper name for the operator of the park. No response was
received providing their proper identity. Their response was silence."
Brief of Appellant at 4. However, the Hutchisons presented no Rule 56 materials to the trial court in support of their assertion.
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