Court Refuses To Apply Relation Back Doctrine To Statute of Limitations Expired Following Failure To Join Necessary Parties To Zoning Challenge

After Respondent Town of Liberty enacted Local Law No. 2 (2011), Petitioners commenced a proceeding to annul the law, naming the Town, Gary Zalkin (operating as Liberty Scrap Metal), and Ben Weitsman and Son, Inc. as respondents (henceforth “Original Respondents”). Original Respondents moved to dismiss on the grounds that Petitioners failed to join the owners of the parcels of real property affected by the zoning law as necessary parties. The trial court agreed and ordered Petitioners file and serve an amended petition adding such property owners as respondents. While filing this amended petition, the statute of limitations expired and the trial court dismissed the petition against the newly-added respondents. As a result, the Court also dismissed the remainder of the petition against the Original Respondents due to Petitioners' failure to timely join necessary parties.

To qualify under the relation back doctrine, Petitioners must show that: 1) the claims arose out of the same occurrence; 2) the later-added respondents were united in interest with the original respondents; and 3) the later-added respondents knew or should have known that, but for a mistake by Petitioners as to the identity of the proper parties, the proceeding would have been brought against them as well. Here, Original Respondents consist of the municipality that enacted the challenged zoning law and the entities that purportedly sought the zoning changes, while the later-added respondents are owners of the real property affected by the zoning changes, and thus there was no unity of interest between the parties. The third prong is similarly unmet, as Petitioners were fully aware these property owners existed, but “failed to appreciate that they were legally required to be named in proceedings of this type.” As such, Petitioners' error does not fall within the doctrine. The court thus affirmed the dismissal.

The case was Ayuda Re Funding, LLC v Town of Liberty, 121 A.D.3d 1474 (App. Div. 2014). The decision can be found here:

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