Relf v. Shatayeva

A February 2008 automobile accident resulted in the death of the driver who was purportedly at fault. His son was issued letters of office to serve as independent administrator of the driver’s estate. The limitations period for plaintiff’s claim of personal injuries was two years. Just before that limitations period was to expire, plaintiff filed suit, apparently unaware of the driver’s death. Her action against a dead person was invalid. Attempts to serve process were unsuccessful, but a special process server eventually notified the plaintiff that the defendant was dead. The Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/13-209, allows a two-year extension of the limitations period under certain conditions, including when a plaintiff moves to substitute the decedent’s personal representative as defendant. The plaintiff did not do so, but obtained the circuit court’s permission to have an employee of plaintiff’s attorney appointed as “special administrator” to defend the estate, a procedure that has no statutory authorization. The circuit court dismissed the action on limitations grounds, but the appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. Upon learning of the defendant’s demise, the plaintiff should have sought leave to amend the complaint to substitute as defendant the decedent’s son, as decedent’s personal representative, and should have then served process on that representative. The plaintiff failed to use reasonable diligence. View "Relf v. Shatayeva" on Justia Law