A Virginia appellate court recently issued an opinion addressing whether a plaintiff’s misidentification of a defendant was a “misnomer” or “misjoinder.” The case illustrates the importance of a thorough investigation when pursuing any type of Virginia personal injury claim.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle when it was hit by another car after sunset on Christmas Eve in 2016. The record indicates that the other driver ran a red light while making a left turn and hit the vehicle carrying the plaintiff. Approximately two years after the accident, the plaintiff filed a complaint against the other vehicle’s driver. The plaintiff alleged that the driver was negligent in several ways, including failing to keep a proper lookout, maintaining his vehicle, applying his brakes, and obeying traffic signals. The complaint focused on the negligent operation of the other vehicle, and no cause of action against the owner of the car that was carrying the plaintiff.
The plaintiff’s complaint identified the vehicle’s driver as the vehicle’s owner, when, in fact, the owner’s son was driving the car at the time of the accident. The plaintiff misidentified the driver because the police report reflected that the father was charged with violating traffic codes. The plaintiff amended the complaint to reflect the correct driver, after that driver’s insurer notified him of the misidentification. In response, the defendant filed a plea arguing that the new complaint was time-barred. The lower court ruled that the misidentification was a misjoinder, not a misnomer, therefore ruling that the statute of limitations barred the complaint.