Court of Appeals overturns trial judge's ruling on corporate name and enters judgment in favor of defendants in premises liability case
Amy Paberzs tripped and fell in the vestibule of the West Bloomfield Nursing and Convalescent Center in 2009. The owner, Eight Star Limited Partnership, sought summary disposition, noting that while it owned the property, the property was leased to two separate corporations that assumed "full and total responsibility for maintenance." When the landowner identified the tenant corporations, the Plaintif sought leave to amend her complaint to identify those entities as defendants, and the Court granted her the right to amend. The defendants appealed; they argued that the statute of limitations ran before the new corporations were joined as party Defendants.
The trial judge held that the new defendant corporations had actual notice of Paberzs' claims and lawsuit, and that they had manipulated discovery in a manner designed to allow the statute of limitations to expire prior to being formally joined in the lawsuit. The judge held that the defendant corporations had suffered no prejudice, and that in actuality, this was simply a lawsuit brought against the right defendant under the wrong name.
The Court of Appeals objected to the trial court's analysis and rejected its attempt to achieve an equitable outcome. It deemed the trial court in error in failing to treat the new corporation as a "separate and distinct corporate entity" now protected by the statute of limitations. It also pointed to the fact that the Defendants identified the responsible owner 16 days before the statute of limitations ran, deeming this late notice sufficient to have allowed the Plaintiff's attorneys to join the proper corporation in the case.