Can you settle a case, dismiss the case with prejudice, and then amend the case Complaint to add a new party?
On September 28, 2004, Roswell Irving, Jr., was struck and killed by a truck owned and operated by Hosie Thomas dba H.T. Trucking. On November 22, 2004, a wrongful-death suit was filed against Hosie Thomas and H.T. Trucking. At Hosie Thomas’ deposition on August 11, 2005, it was learned that Thomas was hauling logs as an independent contractor for Crawford Logging, Inc. In November of 2005, the Parties participated in mediation and settled the case. The proper wrongful-death beneficiaries of Roswell Irving, Jr. signed a Release of All Claims, which released Hosie Thomas, H.T. Trucking Company, and other entities in privity of interest therewith from further liability in the case. The Parties also agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice. However, in March 2006, the wrongful-death beneficiaries of Roswell Irving, Jr. filed a Second Amended Complaint seeking additional recovery from Crawford Logging, Inc. as an added Defendant in the case. Crawford Logging, Inc. appealed.
The Supreme Court of Mississippi ruled in favor of Crawford Logging, Inc. for two reasons.
First, when a case is dismissed with prejudice as this case was, the case is over – finished – and it cannot later be amended to add an additional party. The wrongful-death beneficiaries of Roswell Irving, Jr. could not amend their Complaint in the settled case to add Crawford Logging, Inc. as a Defendant.
Second, even though Crawford Logging, Inc. was not a Party to the original lawsuit, the wrongful-death beneficiaries of Roswell Irving, Jr. knew that there was privity of interest between Hosie Thomas, H.T. Trucking Company, and Crawford Logging, Inc. and went ahead and signed the Release which included the “privity of interest” provision. And pursuant to the Release, Crawford Logging, Inc. was released of further liability. Further, since any liability that Crawford Logging, Inc. had in the case would have to come from the actions of Hosie Thomas and H.T. Trucking Company and they were released, there was not an independent case against Crawford Logging, Inc.
The bottom line is that the case had been settled and it is up to the Plaintiffs in the case to know the full effects of the settlement. When the Plaintiffs released Hosie Thomas and H.T. Trucking Company, they were also releasing Crawford Logging, Inc.