Nina L. Martin, Individually and as Personal Representative, et al., Petitioners ,
Dematic et al., Respondents
Argued October 14, 2014
Appeal from Snohomish County Superior Court. No. 07-2-05566-3. Honorable Linda C. Krese.
John Budlong (of Law Offices of John Budlong ); and George M. Ahrend (of Ahrend Albrecht PLLC ), for petitioners.
Douglas A. Hofmann (of Williams Kastner ); David C. Groff Jr. and Michael P. Grace (of Groff Murphy PLLC ); Daniel C. Carmalt (of Lipsky Portales PA ); and Francis S. Floyd, A. Troy Hunter, and Amber L. Pearce (of Floyd Pflueger and Ringer PS ), for respondents.
Bryan P. Harnetiaux and Gary N. Bloom on behalf of Washington State Association for Justice Foundation, amicus curiae.
AUTHOR: Justice Susan Owens. WE CONCUR: Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen, Justice Charles W. Johnson, Justice Mary E. Fairhurst, Justice Debra L. Stephens, Justice Charles K. Wiggins, Justice Steven C. González, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Justice Mary I. Yu.
[182 Wn.2d 283] ¶ 1 Donald Martin was killed by a machine at a paper plant. His wife, Nina Martin, tried to sue the company that installed the machine, but that company no longer existed. It was difficult for Martin to discern which company was now responsible for the installation company's liability because the merger and acquisition history of the installation company was particularly complicated. Because of that complicated history, Martin sued the incorrect company and did not realize who the responsible party was until after the statute of limitations period expired.
¶ 2 This case requires us to determine whether Martin met the requirements of the rule that allows such plaintiffs to add the correct defendant after the statute of limitations period expires. In particular, we must determine whether Martin's inability to identify the correct defendant was due to inexcusable neglect. We hold it was not. The record does [182 Wn.2d 284] not show that the proper defendant's identity was easily ascertainable by Martin during the limitations period. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals.
¶ 3 On August 13, 2004, Donald Martin was killed by a machine at a Kimberly Clark paper plant. Nina Martin filed a wrongful death and survival action within the three-year statute of limitations on June 29, 2007. In the complaint, Martin named several defendants, most relevant here being " General Construction Company dba/fka Wright Schuchart Harbor Company," and she served General Construction Company (GCC) with the summons and complaint on July 5, 2007. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 394-95. Martin alleged that Wright Schuchart Harbor Co. (WSH) installed the machine, known as Tissue Machine No. 5 (TM5), that killed Donald and that GCC was its corporate successor.
¶ 4 On July 24, 2007, unknown to Martin, GCC tendered the defense and demanded indemnity from Fletcher General Inc. and Fletcher Construction Company North America (FCCNA).  The letter stated that under a stock purchase agreement from 1996, Fletcher General remained liable for events occurring before 1996 and that because WSH installed the TM5 " around 1980," ...