A Maryland car accident lawsuit begins with the filing of a complaint against one or more defendants. Filing pleadings against fictitious persons are known as “John Doe” pleadings. Maryland law does not specifically authorize John Doe pleadings. However, Maryland does permit parties to amend pleadings to add a party or correct an incorrectly named party in some circumstances.
Maryland allows parties amending pleadings to apply the doctrine of relation back by not barring the amended cause of action by the statute of limitations as long as the facts remain essentially the same after the amendment. So, for example, a party may be able to correct the name of an originally-named party, but not to add a new party. A recent case serves as a warning for those who fail to sufficiently investigate and properly name parties before filing a complaint.
According to the state court appellate opinion, in September 2016, a police officer saw a driver run two red lights without stopping, and a police chase ensued. Another officer who joined in the chase and was pursuing the driver drove against the flow of traffic and hit another driver head-on, killing him. The man’s personal representative sued the police officer driving the car, the city, and other named and fictitiously named parties. More than a year later, the representative amended the complaint to substitute the names of the other police officers involved in the chase for the fictitiously named defendants. The defendant officers argued that the amended complaint was not timely filed and was barred by the statute of limitations.