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Georgia Court of Appeals Holds Wrongful Death Claim Relates Back – Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Eric Frisch

Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Eric Frisch.

The Georgia Court of Appeals has held that a wrongful death claim asserted more than two years after the death relates back to the original filing. Plaintiff was the administrator of the estate of a patient who was injured when he was dropped by two employees of an ambulance company. The patient died more than a year after the incident. The administrator originally filed the case as a personal injury/estate claim just before expiration of the two-year statute of limitations. During discovery, plaintiff learned of a connection between the incident and the patient’s death, so the complaint was amended to assert a wrongful death claim. The trial court dismissed the wrongful death claim as untimely.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the wrongful death claim related back to the original filing under O.C.G.A. §9-11-15(c). The Court held that the wrongful death claim arose out of the same core of operative facts. Because the administrator was also the patient’s wife, no new plaintiff needed to be joined. Under Section 9-11-15(c), a claim will relate back to the date of the original pleading when it arises out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence in the original pleading.

Take-home: relation back is a broad doctrine that saves many new claims even if the statute of limitations has run. The rule is different if parties are going to be added at the same time, so the context in which the rule is applied is important.

The case is Toomer v. Metro Ambulance Services, Inc., ___ S.E.2d ___, 2022 WL 2285926 (Ga.Ct.App. June 24, 2022).

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