Krupski and Relation Back for Claims Against John Doe Defendants

By Meg Tomlinson

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C) governs amendments that change the party or naming of a party in a pleading after the statute of limitations has run. Many courts have found amendments identifying defendants previously named as John Doe to be outside the scope of the rule, holding that a lack of knowledge does not constitute a mistake under Rule 15. In 2010, however, the U.S. Supreme Court refocused the relation back inquiry on what the party to be brought in by amendment knew or should have known within the limitations period—away from what the plaintiff knew or should have known at the time of filing the complaint. In light of that decision, a number of federal district courts have reinterpreted Rule 15(c) and have begun to allow relation back for claims against John Doe defendants when the requirements of Rule 15(c) are met. This Note examines relation back for claims against John Doe defendants and concludes that this new approach is supported by the Supreme Court’s relation back doctrine as well as the text and purpose of Rule 15(c), and it avoids the tension with Rule 11 that the John Doe rule creates.