Legal Newsline

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Iowa SC reinstates slip-and-fall after proper defendant found

By Cheyenne Dickerson | Feb 21, 2017


BOISE, Idaho (Legal Newsline) – On Jan. 19, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated a lower court's dismissal of a slip-and-fall lawsuit against Snake River Peterson Properties by Geralyn Gallagher.

The case was filed in 2014 after Gallagher “sustained injuries after she fell on a wet floor of the Best Western Cottontree Inn,” as noted in the court's opinion, authored by Justice Joel Horton.

Gallagher filed her initial complaint against the owner of the Best Western Cottontree Inn, which at the time she thought was L&L Legacy Limited Partnership. She thought this partnership was the owner because she completed a search through the Secretary of State’s database.

However, L&L was in fact not the owner, as Snake River had already purchased the property and was in operation when Gallagher allegedly slipped. When she learned that information, she filed an amended complaint, adding Snake River as a defendant.

She tried to serve L&L's Scott Eskelson; however, Eskelson would not accept because L&L was no longer the owner.

Snake River was introduced to the case on April 9, 2015, and in that same year on June 4, L&L was relieved from the case with prejudice.

In defense, Snake River filed for summary judgment on statute-of-limitations grounds, and Gallagher appealed.

The Supreme Court recognized Gallagher’s amendment “did not relate back to the date she filed her original complaint and that the statute of limitations was not tolled due to Snake River’s failure to file a certificate of assumed business name with the Secretary of State.”

Both parties involved did recognize that Snake River did indeed neglect its business duties “to file a certificate of assumed business name with the Secretary of State's office.”

Horton wrote, “The district court found that because Gallagher's only search was of the Secretary of State's database, Gallagher did not exercise reasonable diligence in ascertaining the proper party.” Because of this, the Supreme Court “declined to toll the statute of limitations.”

Specifically, the court “found that the amended complaint did not relate back under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) because Snake River was unaware of the pendency of the lawsuit at the time of the expiration of the statute of limitations.”

In conclusion, the court ruled that Gallagher “could amend her complaint to assert the statutory cause of action."

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Idaho Supreme Court