Another Plain Dealer article, this morning, looked at the Supreme Court's clarification of "John Doe lawsuits" under Ohio Rule of Civil Procedure 15 --- interpretations often wrong.
"Some observers," the article said, "believed that court rules allowed suits with fictitious names and gave the person who brought the complaint up to a year -- even if that extended beyond the statute of limitations -- to come up with actual names of their targeted defendants."
Not so, the Court said last month. "To construe the rule to allow the use of placeholders for unidentified defendants would eliminate the statute of limitations for every cause of action," Justice Terrence O'Donnell wrote for the court's majority. [ Erwin v. Bryan, 2009-0580 ] [ Court's Summary ]
Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, dissenting, cited Chief Justice Celebrezzes dissent in Varno v. Bally Mfg. Co. (1985), writing: "the majority's inconsistent application of the rules' interaction demands service on an unknown defendant prior to the runningof the statute of limitations and makes no allowance for Civ.R. 3(A)'s post-filing period. Clearly, Rule 15(C) was designed to assist plaintiffs by allowing amendments to relate back to the time of the original filing and was not intended to add yet another obstacle in the path to the courthouse. 'Because of relation back, the intervening statute of limitation does not interfere with the opportunity to amend.' I can't offer a more coherent or concise explanation as to why the court is as wrong today as it was in 1985."