Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Litigation Cannot Proceed Against Deceased Party; Personal Representative of Estate Must be Substituted

In the case of Brown v. Quest Diagnostic Clinical Labatories, Inc., No. 1907 MDA 2017 (Pa. Super. May 1, 2019 Ford Elliot, P.J.E., Gantman, P.J.E., Nichols, J.) (Op. by Ford Elliot, P.J.E.), the Superior Court reaffirmed the general rule that a trial court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a claim filed against a deceased party.  

This matter arose out of a medical malpractice action.

The appellate court noted that the filing of a Notice of Death as well as the substitution of a personal representative is mandatory in order to maintain the viability of an action.   The court noted that the Rules of Civil Procedure require that, where a party passes away during a litigation, an estate must be raised for the deceased party, letters of administration must be issued, and a personal representative must be appointed to the estate within one (1) year of the Suggestion of Death being filed.   The court noted that this applicable statute does not set a deadline for the filing of a Motion to Substitute.

In this matter, the appellate court found that it was error for the trial court to abate an action for the delay in filing a Motion to Substitute where the personal representative had been appointed within the one (1) year statutory period.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

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