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KAMINSKI v. METROPOLITAN LIFE INS. CO.

April 6, 1984

GOLDIE KAMINSKI, Plaintiff, against METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, and THE GENERAL MOTORS RETIREMENT PROGRAM FOR SALARIED EMPLOYEES, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAND

LEONARD B. SAND, U.S.D.J.

SAND, J.

 Plaintiff Goldie Kaminski was employed by the General Motors Corporation for approximately twenty years, from 1955 until 1975. On August 23, 1978, she commenced this action against defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("Metropolitan") seeking sickness and accident disability benefits pursuant to a certificate of insurance between the General Motors Corporation and Metropolitan. Under this policy, eligible General Motors employees may recovery salary replacement benefits for a limited period of disability caused by sickness or accident. On September 25, 1983, by memorandum endorsement, we granted plaintiff's motion to add as a defendant the General Motors Corporation "without prejudice to the right of General Motors to move to dismiss under the applicable statute of limitations." Plaintiff served General Motors with an amended complaint on October 19, 1983, naming as defendants the General Motors Corporation and the General Motors Retirement Program for Salaried Employees (referred to jointly as "General Motors"), seeking retirement benefits under a General Motors program providing such benefits to certain employees found to be "wholly and permanently prevented from engaging in regular employment" with General Motors because of medical disability. Plaintiff also claims against General Motors entitlement to major medical and dental care coverage, life insurance, stock purchase program benefits, and $10 million dollars in punitive damages for the willful withholding of such benefits. Defendant General Motors now moves for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff's claims against it are barred by the statute of limitations. For the following reasons, we grant defendant's motion.

 Both plaintiff and General Motors agree that this action is timely only if it relates back to the date of plaintiff's original complaint against Metropolitan. *fn1" The relation back of pleadings is governed by Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides in pertinent part:

 Relation Back of Amendments. Whenever 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.

 This rule imposes three distinct, but related requirements for the relation back of amendments "changing the party against whom a claim is asserted." While we recognize that the rule should be construed liberally, we do not believe that plaintiff's addition of General Motors and a new contractual basis for recovery, eight years after plaintiff left defendant's employ and five years after plaintiff instituted this action against Metropolitan, satisfies these standards.

 I

 To satisfy the threshold requirement of Rule 15(c), plaintiff must demonstrate that the claim 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." Plaintiff argues that she has met this standard because "the allegation of total disability which is made by the plaintiff" is "the basis of the claim against both Defendants." Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition, page 9.

 This contention seriously misstates the relationship between the original and amended complaints. Plaintiff's original complaint sought damages for breach of a certificate of insurance pursuant to which General Motors employees would be eligible for sickness and accident benefits for temporary periods of disability. The decision to deny plaintiff these benefits was made by Metropolitan in 1975, after plaintiff was examined by two Metropolitan physicians. Plaintiff's amended complaint against General Motors rests in large part on a different contractual basis, the General Motors retirement program. The cause of action against General Motors arises out of General Motors' decision not to pay plaintiff lifetime benefits under this program, after plaintiff was examined by two General Motors physicians in 1976. In sum, plaintiff proceeds against a new defendant on the basis of a different contract and different medical examinations under different auspices. Plaintiff's amendment falls squarely within Professors Wright and Miller's description of claims time barred under Rule 15:

 When plaintiff attempts to allege an entirely different transaction by amendment, as, for example, the separate publication of a libelous statement or the breach of an independent contract, the new claim will be subject to the defense of statute of limitations.

 Wright & Miller, 6 Federal Practice and Procedure § 1497 at 489-90 (1971); cf. Illinois Tool Works, Inc. v. Foster Grant Co., 395 F. Supp. 234 (D.C.Ill 1974), affirmed, 547 F.2d 1300 (7th Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 929, 53 L. Ed. 2d 243, 97 S. Ct. 2631 (1977) (infringement of one patent is not the "same conduct, transaction, or occurrence" as alleged infringement of another patent.)

 While we recognize that some of the evidence admissible against Metropolitan on the claim for temporary benefits would also be admissible against General Motors on the claim for permanent benefits, we do not believe that the overlap of evidence alone will satisfy the relation back standards. Cf. 6 Wright & Miller, supra at 503-04 (rejecting mechanical tests to determine relation back).Moreover, the primary purpose of Rule 15(c) is to assure that defendants have received adequate notice of claims within the limitations period and will not be unduly prejudiced by amendments to the complaint. Thus, "Rule 15(c) is not simply an identity of transaction test," and "although not expressly mentioned in the rule, the courts also inquire into whether the opposing party has been put on notice regarding the claim or defense raised by the amended pleading." Id. at 495; see also 3 Moore's Federal Practice P15.15[3] at 15-194 (2d ed. 1983).Notice and prejudice, of course, are overtly addressed in Rule 15(c)'s provisions governing the addition of parties. Thus, our discussion of subsections (1) and (2) of Rule 159c), concluding that plaintiff has failed to satisfy these subsections, will also bear on the question whether plaintiff has satisfied the threshold requirement of Rule 15(c). But assuming arguendo that plaintiff's claims against General Motors arise out of the same "conduct, transaction, or occurrence" as the claim against Metropolitan, we do not believe plaintiff has met the following two requirements.

 II

 Rule 15(c)(1) inquires whether the party to be brought in by amendment has, within the period of the statute of limitations, "received such notice of the institution of the action that he will not be ...


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