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The New York Court of Appeals, in an action challenging the issuance of a use variance, clarified the application of the “relation back doctrine” to allow an amended petition adding a necessary party, after expiration of the statute of limitations. In Matter of Joseph Nemeth v. K-Tooling the Court found, omitting the owner of the property at issue from the initial petition in the Article 78 challenge to the use variance could be cured through the relation back doctrine in CPLR 203 (C).

Outlining the general rule at issue, the Court explained that with: “the relation back doctrine, claims against a party mistakenly omitted from the initial filing and then added after the expiration of the limitations period may be treated as interposed when the action was timely commenced against the originally named respondents. The relation back doctrine applies when (1) the claims arise out of the same conduct, transaction or occurrence; (2) the new party is ‘united in interest’ with an original defendant and thus can be charged with such notice of the commencement of the action such that a court concludes that the party will not be prejudiced in defending against the action; and (3) the new party knew or should have known that, but for a mistaken omission, they would have been named in the initial pleading (see Buran v Coupal, 87 NY2d 173, 178 [1995]).

The doctrine focuses on the notice and prejudice to the added party. However, the doctrine does not apply when a plaintiff ‘intentionally decides not to assert a claim against a party known to be potentially liable’ or when the new party was omitted ‘to obtain a tactical advantage in the litigation’ (id. at 181). These exceptions minimize gamesmanship and manipulation of the CPLR (see id.).'”

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