Imagine your daughter dying in a high-speed police chase—when she was not even the driver that evaded police or caused the crash. You want to hold someone accountable, but you do not know who the right person is if you sue: the deputy, the sheriff in his personal capacity, the sheriff in his official capacity, the county, the sheriff’s office, the county commissioners, the insurer of the police car? You sue the wrong one, and it is too late. Now what?
Thankfully for you, Georgia has forgiving pleading standards. Relation back is a legal fiction that assumes a claim was brought before the statute of limitations expired, circumventing those statutory requirements. But courts must also consider fairness to the new defendant who believed that claim, for which the new defendant now faces liability, was time-barred and void.
Indeed, as Georgia courts made decisions balancing those interests, they started to reach unpredictable results because they employed different analytical frameworks. After fifty years of Georgia Court of Appeals decisions, the Georgia Supreme Court weighed in for the first time. The court held that relation back applies when a proposed defendant knew or should have known it would have been a party defendant, had the plaintiff not made a legal or factual mistake
Jordan Lipp, No More “Heads Defendants Win, Tails Plaintiffs Lose”: How the Georgia Supreme Court’s Relation Back Decision in Cannon Rebalances Pleading Power, 73 Mercer L. Rev. 1527 (2022).