Court finds that parents of deceased plaintiff could substitute in Tennessee motor vehicle collision case

by Mandy Hicks

Some of the first concepts that law students are taught involve identifying the potential parties to a lawsuit and the appropriate court to file their claim. For instance, in order to seek relief in a court of law, a potential plaintiff must have standing. This means that the party has a sufficient connection to the issue to support that person’s participation in the legal proceedings at issue.

It’s a simple enough idea. But what happens when a plaintiff dies before the matter is resolved? Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure 25.01 states that, unless the claim is extinguished by the plaintiff’s death, another interested party (such as the successor or representative of the plaintiff) may file a motion to be substituted as the plaintiff.

A Tennessee appellate court recently had an occasion to review a trial court’s decision regarding this issue in a motor vehicle collision case.

Facts of the Case

In Dubis v. Loyd, the original plaintiff filed suit against a woman whom she alleged was responsible for a motor vehicle accident. The original plaintiff’s uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist insurance carrier was apparently also named as a defendant, although it filed an answer denying that the defendant was uninsured or underinsured. After what the court described as “contentious discovery litigation,” the matter was set for trial. Before the case could be tried, however, the original plaintiff passed away.

The trial court eventually granted the motion of the plaintiffs herein (the original plaintiff’s parents) to substitute themselves as party plaintiffs. The Court later dismissed the case on the grounds that the parents had not filed a timely motion for substitution. They appealed the order as to the defendant motorist but voluntarily dismissed the UM/UIM carrier from the case.

Holding of the Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee in Jackson reversed the lower court’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. According to the court, the original plaintiff’s parents had shown excusable neglect sufficient to justify an enlargement of time under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 6.02. Although the initial motion for substitution was not fully compliant with all applicable laws, it was filed within the appropriate 90-day time period. In so holding, the court noted that there had been no suggestion that allowing the substitution would prejudice the defendant, who was well aware of the claim against her and had been since the beginning of the proceedings.

For Reliable Advice Concerning Your Tennessee or Kentucky Car Accident Case

Many unexpected issues can arise in even “routine” car accident cases. These issues not only may cause delays but have the potential to jeopardize the outcome of the plaintiff’s case. If you have been hurt in a wreck, it is advisable to speak to an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible so that someone will be looking out for your interests, not just the insurance company’s bottom line. To talk to a knowledgeable car or truck accident attorney about your Kentucky or Tennessee motor vehicle accident, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley at (270) 781-6500 and ask for a free case evaluation. We serve clients in Bowling Green, Franklin, Springfield, Nashville, Hopkinsville, and the surrounding areas.

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