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Doctrine of Relation Back question

San Luis Obispo, CA |
Filed under: Lawsuits and disputes

Does the Relation Back doctrine only relate to complaints?
Is it applicable to answers?

Attorney Answers 3


Only to complaints and cross-complaints, not answers.

In California, the relation-back doctrine requires that the amended complaint must (1) rest on the same general set of facts, (2) involve the same injury; and (3) refer to the same instrumentality, as the original one. Norgart v. Upjohn Co. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 383, 408- 409.

Put another way, "[a]n amended complaint relates back to the original complaint when it (1) is based on the same general facts as the original, (2) seeks relief for the same [harm], and (3) refers to the same incident. [Citation.] The amended pleading will not relate back to the original if it refers to a different incident, even though it alleges the same resulting injury." Foxborough v. Van Atta (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 217, 230.

"The policy behind statutes of limitations is to put defendants on notice of the need to defend against a claim in time to prepare a fair defense on the merits. This policy is satisfied when recovery under an amended complaint is sought on the same basic set of facts as the original pleading. [Citation.]" Garrison v. Board of Directors(1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1670, 1678.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult with your own attorney.

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It relates to the complaint or cross-complaint, as the case may be. If you want to change your answer, you'd have to amend it. And if you already answered, you'd have to file a motion for leave to amend.

This answer is provided solely for informational purposes only. This answer does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, and/or constitute attorney advertising in any form whatsoever.

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I agree with my colleagues. I add that California has a somewhat unique pleading construct in that it has a pleading called the cross-complaint the other attorneys mention (for which the relation back concept can apply in the proper context) as opposed to counterclaims asserted within an answer that many other jurisdictions employ. California's civil code has abolished the counterclaim and replaced it with the cross complaint.

I have been licensed to practice in the State of Oregon since 1990. I am not offering legal advice regarding your question, only general information regarding the law. You are not my client nor am I your attorney unless we sign a retainer agreement.

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