Schiavone v. Fortune
477 U.S. 21 (1986)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Schiavone v. Fortune, 477 U.S. 21 (1986)

Schiavone v. Fortune

No. 84-1839

Argued February 26, 1986

Decided June 18, 1986

477 U.S. 21

Syllabus

Petitioners instituted diversity libel actions on May 9, 1983, by filing their respective complaints in the Federal District Court for the District of New Jersey. Each complaint alleged that the plaintiff was libeled in a story that appeared in the May 31, 1982, issue of Fortune magazine, and described Fortune as "a foreign corporation having its principal offices at Time and Life Building" in New York City. On May 20, the complaints were mailed to Time's registered agent in New Jersey, who received them on May 23 but refused service because Time was not named as a defendant. On July 19, 1983, each petitioner amended his complaint to name as the captioned defendant, and to refer in the body of the complaint to, "Fortune, also known as Time, Incorporated." The amended complaints were served on Time by certified mail on July 21. The District Court dismissed the complaints under the New Jersey statute of limitations, which requires a libel action to be commenced within one year of the publication of the alleged libel. The court held that, although the amended complaints adequately named Time as a defendant, the amendments did not relate back, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c), to the filing of the original complaints because it had not been shown that Time received notice of the institution of the actions within the period provided by New Jersey law. On consolidated appeals, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The actions were properly dismissed. Pp. 477 U. S. 27-32.

(a) Even if this Court adopted the "identity-of-interest" exception under which an amendment that substitutes a related party in a complaint after the limitations period has expired will relate back to the date the original complaint was filed, the facts of this case do not fall within that exception. Neither Fortune nor Time received notice of the filing until after the limitations period had run, and thus there was not proper notice to Fortune that could be imputed to Time. Pp. 477 U. S. 27-29.

(b) The July, 1983, amendments to the complaints did not relate back to the May 9 filing. Under Rule 15(c), relation back is dependent upon four factors, all of which must be satisfied. Notice to Time and the necessary knowledge did not come into being "within the period provided by law for commencing an action against" Time as required by Rule 15(c).

Page 477 U. S. 22

That occurred only after expiration of the applicable 1-year period. Pp. 477 U. S. 29-32.

750 F.2d 15, affirmed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, J., joined, post, p. 477 U. S. 32.

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