Friday, July 10, 2009

Appellate Division: Major Opinion on Suing Defendant Whose Identity is Unknown

Plaintiff's counsel does not always know the identity of all the defendants when a civil action is commenced. Pursuant to CPLR § 1024 he can, however, commence an action against "John Doe" or "Jane Doe."

Under CPLR § 306-a an action is commenced by filing it with the county clerk. Pursuant to CPLR § 306-b service must then be made on the defendant within 120 days after the filing.

But what does plaintiff's counsel do if he still does not know the defendant's identity within the 120 days? And what if he learns of her identity after the 120 days?

In a major ruling, Bumpus v. New York City Transit Authority, the Appellate Division, Second Department, answers these questions and lays out a detailed roadmap for counsel facing the prospect of suing a defendant whose identity is not known.

Bumpus is must reading for plaintiffs' counsel. The decision can be found here.

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