United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
M. BROWN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
personal injury action is before the Court on Aramark Uniform
Services' motion to dismiss. Doc. #30.
30, 2017, Cora Smith filed a complaint in the Circuit Court
of Leflore County, Mississippi, against Food Giant
Supermarkets, Inc; and “John Does 1-10.” Doc. #2
at 1. The complaint alleged that Food Giant and the
fictitious parties negligently caused Smith to slip and fall
on a rug while shopping in a Food Giant-owned store on or
about May 31, 2014. Id. at 2. After being served
with a copy of the summons and complaint on September 18,
2017, Food Giant, asserting diversity jurisdiction, removed
the state court action to this Court on September 27, 2017.
Doc. #1 at 1.
March 19, 2018, Cora,  filed a motion to amend her complaint to
add a negligence claim against Aramark Uniform Services
because “[a]fter the expiration of the amendment
deadline, the Plaintiff learned that [Aramark] was utilized
by [Food Giant] to maintain the rug in
question.” Doc. #23 at 1. United States Magistrate
Judge Jane M. Virden granted the motion to amend on March 20,
2018, and Cora filed her amended complaint the same day. Doc.
a month later, on April 19, 2018, Prentiss Smith, the
conservator for Cora, was substituted as the plaintiff in
this action. Doc. #29.
April 23, 2018, Aramark filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion seeking
dismissal of Cora's claims as untimely. Doc. #30. The
motion is fully briefed. See Doc. #31; Doc. #39;
Doc. #40; Doc. #41.
Standard of Review
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, “a complaint need not contain detailed
factual allegations; rather, it need only allege facts
sufficient to state a claim for relief that is plausible on
its face.” Littell v. Hous. Indep. Sch. Dist.,
894 F.3d 616, 622 (5th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks
omitted). A claim is facially plausible “when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Under this
standard, dismissal is inappropriate “even if recovery
is very remote and unlikely, so long as the alleged facts
raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
diversity actions such as this, state law provides the
applicable statute of limitations for state law claims.
Tex. Soil Recycling, Inc. v. Intercargo Ins. Co.,
273 F.3d 644, 649 (5th Cir. 2001). Mississippi has a
three-year statute of limitations for negligence claims.
Peoples Bank of Biloxi v. McAdams, 171 So.3d 505,
508 (Miss. 2015). Under Mississippi law, “a cause of
action accrues when it comes into existence as an enforceable
claim ….” Bullard v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 941 So.2d 812, 815 (Miss. 2006). A tort claim is
enforceable when a plaintiff has knowledge of the following
elements: “duty, breach of duty, causation between the
breach of the duty and the injury, and actual damage.”
is no dispute that Cora's negligence claim against
Aramark accrued on the date of her injury-May 31, 2014. If
the complaint is deemed filed on the date Cora filed her
amended complaint, there is no dispute that the claim would
be barred by the statute of limitations; however, if the
amended complaint is deemed to relate back to the filing of
the original state court complaint, there is no dispute that
Cora's claim would be timely filed.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(A), “[a]n
amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the
original pleading when … the law that provides the
applicable statute of limitations allows relation
back[.]” In this regard, Mississippi Rule of Civil
Procedure 15(c)(2) provides that “[a]n amendment
pursuant to [Mississippi] Rule 9(h) … relates back to
the date of the original pleading.” Rule 9(h), in turn,
states that “[w]hen a party is ignorant of the name of
an opposing party and so alleges in his pleading, the
opposing party may be designated by any name, and when his
true name is discovered the process and all pleadings and
proceedings in the action may be amended by substituting the
true name and giving proper notice to the opposing
party.” Although the language of Rule 9(h) is broad,
the Mississippi Supreme Court has observed that “the
purpose of Rule 9(h) is to provide a mechanism to bring in
responsible parties, known, but unidentified, who can only be
ascertained through the use of judicial mechanisms such as
discovery.” Veal v. J.P. Morgan Tr. Co., N.A.,
955 So.2d 843, 846 (Miss. 2007) (emphasis omitted).
Relatedly, the Mississippi Supreme Court has held that
“[t]he relation back privilege provided for fictitious
parties under Rule 15(c)(2) requires the plaintiff to
actually exercise a reasonably diligent inquiry into the
identity of the fictitious party.” Bedford Health
Props., LLC v. Estate of Williams ex rel. Hawthorne, 946
So.2d 335, 342 (Miss. 2006). Consistent with this rule, the
Mississippi Supreme Court has “acknowledged a
reasonable diligence test when substituting unknown parties
pursuant [to Rule] 9(h).” Id. at 341-42.
Necessarily, the “reasonably diligent inquiry into the
identity of the unknown defendant must be made within the
limitation period in order for a substitution under Rule 9(h)
to allow a claim to relate back to the date of the original
pleading.” Davenport v. Hertz Equip. Rental
Corp., 187 So.3d 194, 200. (Miss. Ct. App. 2016)
(alterations and internal quotation marks omitted). The
burden rests on the plaintiff to show reasonable diligence.
Id. at 202 (“In summary, we find that
Davenport failed to prove that he lacked knowledge of
Hertz's identity prior to the filing of his original
complaint, but even if he did, he failed the
reasonable-diligence requirement to ascertain Hertz's
argues that because the negligence claim against it accrued
on May 30, 2014, and was filed on March 20, 2018, the claim
is barred by Mississippi's three-year statute of
limitations for negligence claims. Doc. #31 at 2-5. Prentiss
responds that Cora was reasonably diligent in pursing her
claim against Aramark, and that under Rules 9(h) and 15(c) of
the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, the amended
complaint relates back to the May 30, 2017, original
complaint. Doc. #40 at 2-6. Aramark contends that the
relation back doctrine is unavailable ...