final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Bay County. James B.
Anthony B. Britt of The Britt Law Firm, Miami, for Appellant.
Boles III and Brentt E. Palmer of Young, Bill, Boles, Palmer
& Duke, P.A., Pensacola, for Appellee.
was involved in a slip-and-fall accident at an Applebee's
restaurant on July 28, 2012. On July 26, 2016, two days
before the running of the applicable statute of limitations,
she filed suit against two defendants: Apple Two Associates,
Inc., d/b/a Applebee's, and Appellee-Applebee's
Services, Inc. In the body of the complaint, it was
abundantly clear Appellant was suing both Apple Two
Associates, Inc., and Appellee, but the complaint
included only a single count of negligence against Apple Two.
Nevertheless, six months later, after being served, Appellee
filed an answer to the complaint and affirmative defenses on
February 28, 2017.
next filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or,
alternatively, a motion for judgment on the pleadings,
alleging that the complaint failed to state a cause of action
against it. Before a hearing could be held on the motion,
however, the trial court granted Appellant leave to amend her
complaint. The amended complaint, filed on June 28, 2017, was
identical to the initial complaint in all respects with the
exception that it added a second count alleging that Appellee
had purchased the Applebee's restaurant from Apple Two
Associates, Inc., and, by written agreement, assumed all
"debts, liabilities, responsibilities, and all other
obligations of Apple Two Associates, Inc. that were in
existence at the time of and prior to said purchase,"
which included Appellant's lawsuit.
response, Appellee filed a second motion to dismiss.
Principally, the second motion claimed that the new cause of
action against Appellee in Count II was filed well beyond the
four-year statute of limitations in section 95.11(3)(a),
Florida Statutes (2012). The trial court agreed, observing
that the amended complaint was filed after the statute had
run and there was "nothing for the amended complaint to
relate back to." In so ruling, the trial court erred.
an amended complaint relates back to the filing of the
original complaint for statute of limitations purposes is a
question of law subject to de novo review. Caduceus
Props., LLC v. Graney, 137 So. 3d 987');">137 So. 3d 987, 991 (Fla. 2014).
As the Florida Supreme Court explained in Caduceus:
Generally, Florida has a judicial policy of freely permitting
amendments to the pleadings so that cases may be resolved on
the merits, as long as the amendments do not prejudice or
disadvantage the opposing party. . . .
Permitting relation back in this context is also consistent
with Florida case law holding that [Florida Rule of Civil
Procedure] 1.190(c) is to be liberally construed and applied.
Id. at 991-92.
In other words, as long as the initial complaint gives the
defendant fair notice of the general factual scenario or
factual underpinning of the claim, amendments stating new
legal theories can relate back . . . even where the legal
theory of recovery has changed or where the original and
amended claims require the assertion of different elements.
Koppel v. Koppel, 229 So. 3d 812, 816 (Fla. 2017);
Palm Beach Cty. School Bd. v. Doe 1, 210 So. 3d 41,
44 (Fla. 2017) (footnotes omitted) (citing Fabbiano v.
Demings, 91 So. 3d 893, 895 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012);
Flores v. Risomp Indus., Inc., 35 So. 3d 146, 148
(Fla. 3d DCA ...