TT&H Attorneys Win Summary Judgment in Franklin County
August 25, 2020
TT&H Attorneys win summary judgment in connection with a Franklin County suit improperly filed against a dead person.
In August of this year, Attorneys Scott McCarroll and Julia Morrison of our Harrisburg office, won summary judgment in a matter filed against a dead person. The caption reflected that the decedent was sued “in care of surviving spouse.” While the suit was filed within the applicable statute of limitations, it was filed before the estate of the deceased defendant had been raised.
Soon after the suit was filed, an estate was raised. The plaintiffs, however, did not file a new suit against the estate’s personal representative. Instead, the plaintiffs filed a complaint under the original docket and merely changed the caption to name the estate itself as the party defendant. In their Motion for summary judgment, Attorneys McCarroll and Morrison argued that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because a suit against a deceased person or his/her estate is a legal nullity. Granting the Motion, the Franklin County Court recognized that, under controlling precedent from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, “a dead man cannot be a party to an action, and any such attempted proceeding is completely void and of no effect.” The Court thus agreed that it was without jurisdiction, recognizing that where suit is commenced against a dead person, the plaintiff’s only recourse is to file a new action naming the decedent’s personal representative as the defendant, something that did not occur in the instant matter.