Law et al v. Fairfax, The Town of et al
ORDER on Suggestion of Death There is no indication on the record that the Suggestion of Death has been served on any other successors or other representatives of Mrs. Law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4.2 Therefore, Plaintiff 039;s counsel is instructed to serve a copy of its Suggestion of Death [ECF No. 36] and this order, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4, on any known nonparty successor or representative of Mrs. Law and to file proof of said service by July 19, 2017. If no party files a motion for substitution within 90 days from the service of the personal representative, Mrs. Law's action will be dismissed. Signed by Magistrate Judge Shiva V Hodges on 7/5/2017. (mwal)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Charles Law, Sr. and Betty J. Law,
The Town of Fairfax, an Incorporated
South Carolina Municipality; Officer
John Doe, Individually as a police
officer for the Town of Fairfax; and
Officer J. Singleton, Individually as a
Police officer for the Town of Fairfax,
C/A No.: 1:15-3309-JMC-SVH
SUGGESTION OF DEATH
This case comes before the court on the Suggestion of Death of plaintiff Betty J.
Law (“Mrs. Law”), as indicated by Mrs. Law’s counsel. [ECF No. 36].1 This case has
been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local
Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(f) (D.S.C.).
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(a)(1), “if a party dies and the claim is not
extinguished, the court may order substitution of the proper party.” The rule states that “a
motion for substitution may be made by any party or by the decedent’s successor or
representative. If the motion is not made within 90 days after service of a statement
noting the death, the action by or against the decedent must be dismissed.” Id. “In order
to commence the running of the ninety-day period, the suggesting party must personally
Although ECF No. 36 is titled as a motion to withdraw as counsel, it notes that Mrs.
Law is deceased.
serve the suggestion of death on the decedent’s personal representative, if appointed, or
on the successors or representatives of the decedent.” Brooks v. Arthur, No. 6:08-cv-28,
2011 WL 1212254, *1 (W.D.Va. Mar. 30, 2011) (citing Fariss v. Lynchburg Foundry,
769 F.2d 958, 961–62 (4th Cir. 1985) (“Personal service of the suggestion of death alerts
the nonparty to the consequences of death for a pending suit, signaling the need for action
to preserve the claim if so desired.”)). In Fariss, the Fourth Circuit found that service of
the suggestion of death on the decedent’s attorney alone was insufficient. Fariss, 769
F.2d at 962.
Mrs. Law’s counsel indicates that Charles Law, Sr. (“Mr. Law”) is the personal
representative of Mrs. Law’s estate. Mr. Law has been served with the suggestion of
death. [ECF No. 36 at 3]. There is no indication on the record that the Suggestion of
Death has been served on any other successors or other representatives of Mrs. Law
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4.2 Therefore, Plaintiff’s counsel is instructed to serve a copy
of its Suggestion of Death [ECF No. 36] and this order, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4, on
any known nonparty successor or representative of Mrs. Law and to file proof of said
service by July 19, 2017. If no party files a motion for substitution within 90 days from
The successors or representatives of the decedent are “those empowered to assert any
legal claims of the decedent not extinguished by death, or to defend the estate against
others’ claims.” Fariss at 962; see also Atkins v. City of Chicago, 547 F.3d 869, 873 (7th
Cir. 2008) (“[A]n obviously interested non-party . . . must be served for the 90-day clock
to start running.”); Torres v. Bayer Corp. (In re Baycol Prods. Litig.), 616 F.3d 778, 784–
85 (8th Cir. 2010) (“[U]nder certain circumstances, a person may be a ‘successor’ under
Rule 25(a)(1) if she is (1) the primary beneficiary of an already distributed estate; (2)
named in a will as the executor of the decedent’s estate, even if the will is not probated;
or (3) the primary beneficiary of an unprobated intestate estate which need not be
the service of the personal representative, Mrs. Law’s action will be dismissed.
The court notes that before Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(a) can be employed to substitute a
new party for a deceased party, the substantive law controlling the suit must allow for
survival of the cause of action. Where the cause of action does not survive the death of a
party, there can be no substitution for that party under the rule. See, e.e., Asklar v.
Honeywell, Inc., 95 F.R.D. 419, 422 (D. Conn. 1982) (holding substantive law, not Rule
25(a), determines whether case may proceed after death of party).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
July 5, 2017
Columbia, South Carolina
Shiva V. Hodges
United States Magistrate Judge
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