Hennepin County District Court File No. AP 03-13783.
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge; Lansing,
Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.
I. A complaint signed by a non-lawyer on behalf of a corporation may be amended to add an attorney's signature when the corporation acts without knowledge that the omission of an attorney's signature is improper, the corporation diligently corrects the mistake by obtaining counsel, the non-lawyer's participation in the legal proceeding is minimal, and the complaint duly notifies the adverse party of the corporation's claims.
II. An amendment to cure the initial omission of an attorney's signature on a complaint that is timely filed and sets forth a legally sufficient claim relates back to the original pleading.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge
The City of Brooklyn Park appeals from an order denying its motion to dismiss respondent corporation Save Our Creeks's (SOC) declaratory-judgment action. The city argues that the district court erred in concluding that a complaint signed by a non-lawyer on behalf of SOC, in derogation of the rule that a corporation must be represented by counsel in a legal proceeding, could be amended to add an attorney's signature. The city also argues that the district court erred in allowing the amendment to relate back to the original pleading to forestall the running of the statute of limitations. Because we conclude that the amendment and the relation back were proper, we affirm.
On August 7, 2003, respondent Save Our Creeks, a Minnesota corporation, brought a timely declaratory-judgment action against appellant City of Brooklyn Park, challenging the denial of its petition for an environmental-impact statement. The complaint clearly set forth the nature of SOC's claims against the city. It was signed by William Barton, a corporate officer who was not an attorney.
On August 21, after the thirty-day statutory period for seeking review of the city's decision had expired, the city brought a motion to dismiss, claiming that the complaint was null and that the omission of an attorney's signature was a noncurable jurisdictional defect. On September 5, attorney Brian Bates filed a notice of appearance on behalf of the corporation. On September 22, at the hearing on the city's motion to dismiss, Bates signed the complaint.
The district court treated the motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment and denied it. The court allowed SOC to amend the complaint, reasoning that the lack of an attorney's signature was not fatal under Minn. R. Civ. P. 11 and that SOC had acted promptly to correct the error after becoming aware of it. The court also allowed the amendment to relate back to the original pleading to forestall the running of the statute of limitations. Pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.03(i), the court then certified to this court the question whether a complaint signed by a non-lawyer on behalf of a corporation is null.
I. Did the district court err in allowing SOC to amend its complaint, after the statutory period for seeking review of the city's decision had expired, to cure an initial failure to have an ...