Reece v. United States Postal Service
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion for substitution [Doc. # 7 ] is denied without prejudice. Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 3/8/13. (KJS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE,
Case No. 4:12-CV-1566 (CEJ)
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Richelle Reece brought this action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28
U.S.C. §2671, et seq., to recover damages for injuries she claims she sustained in a
collision with a U.S. Postal Service vehicle in 2008. In September 2012, after the
lawsuit was filed, Richelle Reece died. Presently before the Court is a suggestion of
death and a motion to substitute plaintiff’s husband, Clayton Reece, as plaintiff. It
appears from the motion that Clayton Reece seeks to be substituted solely on the basis
of his status as spouse and next of kin.
The procedure for substitution of parties is governed by Rule 25 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 25(a)(1) provides that “[i]f a party dies and the claim
is not extinguished, the court may order substitution of the proper party. A motion for
substitution may be made by any party or by the decedent’s successor or
representative.” While the method for substituting parties is a matter of procedure
governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the question of “who can be a
‘representative’ or ‘successor,’ and therefore, who can qualify as a proper party for
substitution under Rule 25(a)(1)” is an issue of substantive law. In re Baycol Prods.
Litig., 616 F.3d 778, 785 (8th Cir. 2010).
Under the FTCA, federal courts must apply state substantive law. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1346(b)(1) (stating that the “law of the place where the act or omission occurred”
controls). “[B]ecause the FTCA contains an explicit instruction by Congress regarding
which law to use, courts should not engage in their normal Erie [Railroad Co. v.
Tompkins] analysis to make that determination.” Cibula v. United State of America,
551 F.3d 316, 321 (4th Cir. 2009). Therefore, the Court will look to Missouri law to
determine whether Clayton Reece may properly be substituted for Richelle Reece as
plaintiff in this case.
Under Missouri law, a cause of action for a non-fatal personal injury does not
“abate by reason of [the injured party’s] death . . . but survive[s] to the personal
representative of [the] injured party.” MO.REV.STAT. § 537.020(1). Thus, for Clayton
Reece to be substituted under Rule 25 he must first be appointed personal
representative of plaintiff’s estate. See Andrews v. Neer, 253 F.3d 1052, 1057 (8th
Cir. 2001)(“The statute [§ 537.020(1)] unambiguously authorizes the survival of claims
that arise from non-fatal personal injuries where the injured party later dies of
unrelated causes. Such claims must be pursued by the personal representative of the
The Court disagrees with plaintiff’s contention that the Missouri substitution
statute, MO.REV.STAT. § 507.100.1(1), applies in this case because plaintiff filed suit
before her death.
The statute provides, in relevant part:
If a party dies and the claim is not thereby extinguished, the court shall
on motion order substitution of the proper parties. The motion for
substitution may be made by the successors or representatives of the
deceased party or by any party . . .
MO.REV.STAT. § 507.100.1(1).
The language of the statute makes clear that § 507.100.1(1) is procedural in nature--not substantive. By contrast, it is the survival statute---§ 537.020(1)---that governs
in determining who may prosecute a non-fatal personal injury action after the death
of the injured party.
Clayton Reece’s status as surviving spouse and next of kin does not qualify him
to continue the personal injury claim brought by Richelle Reece and, therefore, he
cannot be substituted as the plaintiff in this case.
If Clayton Reece is appointed
personal representative of Richelle Reece’s estate, then he may again move for
substitution under Rule 25.
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion for substitution [Doc. #7] is
denied without prejudice.
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 8th day of March, 2013.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?