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Walker v. Hormann Flexon, LLC

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

August 3, 2017

WILLIAM WALKER, Appellant,
v.
HORMANN FLEXON, LLC, et al., Defendants, and RYTEC CORPORATION, Respondent.

          Calendar Date: June 6, 2017

          Law Offices of J. David Burke, Schenectady (J. David Burke of counsel), for appellant.

          Law Offices of Theresa Puleo, Albany (Murry S. Brower of counsel), for respondent.

          Before: McCarthy, J.P., Garry, Lynch, Rose and Devine, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          GARRY, J.

         Appeal from an order of the Supreme Court (O'Connor, J.), entered February 8, 2016 in Albany County, which granted a motion by defendant Rytec Corporation to dismiss the third amended complaint against it.

         On August 1, 2014, three days before the statute of limitations was to expire, plaintiff commenced this action to recover for injuries he allegedly sustained in August 2011 when an overhead door fell from a raised position and struck him (see CPLR 214). Within his initial complaint, plaintiff designated the corporate entities "who designed, manufactured, sold, distributed, assembled, installed, maintained, repaired and/or serviced the overhead door[], " as John Does Nos. 4 through 6. On June 4, 2015, plaintiff filed a third amended complaint identifying defendant Rytec Corporation as John Doe No. 5. Rytec thereafter filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss the complaint against it on the ground that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiff opposed, asserting that he had adhered to the procedure set out by CPLR 1024, which allowed the filing of the third amended complaint to relate back to the date that the original complaint was filed - before the statute of limitations expired. In reply, Rytec argued that plaintiff had not adhered to the requirements of this provision, as he had not demonstrated due diligence in attempting to learn its identity. Supreme Court granted Rytec's motion. Plaintiff appeals.

         The statutory provision allowing commencement of an action against unknown parties does not toll the statute of limitations (see CPLR 1024; Kaczmarek v Benedictine Hosp., 176 A.D.2d 1183, 1183-1184 [1991]; Green v County of Fulton, 123 A.D.2d 88, 90 [1987]). As Supreme Court held, plaintiff was required to serve all parties within 120 days of filing, or seek leave to extend the time for service "upon good cause shown or in the interest of justice" (CPLR 306-b; see Bumpus v New York City Tr. Auth., 66 A.D.3d 26, 31 [2009]). Here, plaintiff failed to seek leave to extend the time for service prior to expiration of the statutory limitations period.

         Further, a party seeking to apply the relation-back doctrine under CPLR 1024 carries the burden "of establishing that diligent efforts were made to ascertain the unknown party's identity prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations" (Holmes v City of New York, 132 A.D.3d 952, 954 [2015]; see Goldberg v Boatmax://, Inc., 41 A.D.3d 255, 256 [2007]; Luckern v Lyonsdale Energy Ltd. Partnership, 229 A.D.2d 249, 253 [1997]) [1].

         Plaintiff's third amended complaint was filed nearly 10 months after the statute of limitations expired, with the delay essentially unexplained but for a statement that Rytec's identity could not be ascertained until the door was inspected in May 2015. There was no effort to explain any basis for the precommencement delay, and no discussion relative to any of the potential additional discovery efforts that might or could have been undertaken prior to the expiration of the limitations period (see Temple v New York Community Hosp. of Brooklyn, 89 A.D.3d 926, 928 [2011]; Hall v Rao, 26 A.D.3d 694, 695 [2006]; compare U.S. Bank N.A. v Losner, 145 A.D.3d 935, 937 [2016]; Luckern v Lyonsdale Energy Ltd. Partnership, 229 A.D.2d at 254).

         Accordingly, we find that Supreme Court properly granted Rytec's motion to dismiss the third amended complaint against it, as it was barred by the statute of limitations (see Holmes v City of New York, 132 A.D.3d at 954; Temple v New York Community Hosp. of Brooklyn, 89 A.D.3d at 928; compare Henderson-Jones v City of New York, 87 A.D.3d 498, 506 [2011]).

          McCarthy, J.P., Lynch, Rose and Devine, JJ., concur.

         ORDERED that the order is ...


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