TT&H Attorneys Scott McCarroll and Julia Morrison Win Appeal, Affirming the Trial Court’s Dismissal of Plaintiffs’ Complaint In a Suit Filed Against a Deceased Person
April 16, 2021
On April 13, 2021, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the dismissal of a personal injury suit. The suit was initiated against a deceased person “in care of surviving spouse.” Although Plaintiffs filed their suit within the applicable statute of limitations, they did so before the estate of the deceased defendant had been raised. The estate was raised soon after the suit was filed, but Plaintiffs did not file a new suit against the estate’s personal representative. Instead, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint under the original docket and merely changed the caption to name the estate as the party defendant.
Attorneys McCarroll and Morrison argued that the Trial Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because a suit against a deceased person or his/her estate is a legal nullity. The Trial Court agreed and dismissed the suit, relying on Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent that “a dead man cannot be a party to an action, and any such attempted proceeding is completely void and of no effect.” The Superior Court affirmed the dismissal, explaining that where a plaintiff commences an action against a deceased person, the only recourse is to file a new action naming the decedent’s personal representative as the defendant. As that did not occur in this matter, the Plaintiffs’ Complaint was properly dismissed and the Trial Court’s decision was affirmed.