Liljehult v. Johnson
If one of the defendants passes away, a plaintiff may be required to file a motion to substitute that defendant’s estate representative within one year, pursuant to Connecticut’s right-of-survival statute, Connecticut General Statutes §52-599. On Aug. 27, 2009, the plaintiff allegedly was injured in a motor-vehicle collision. On Aug. 25, 2011, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant owner, Carmen Johnson, and the defendant driver, Rhonda Johnson. In response to interrogatories that asked whether the defendants were deceased, the defendants answered, "N/A" and signed the verification on April 11, 2012. Allegedly, Rhonda Johnson passed away on April 14, 2012. The defendants’ attorney arranged to file and to serve the suggestion of Rhonda Johnson’s death and did not amend the answers to the interrogatories, to indicate that Rhonda Johnson had passed away. On June 13, 2013, the plaintiff moved to substitute the estate representative for Rhonda Johnson, and the defendants objected. A plaintiff possesses the right to substitute the estate representative within one year of the defendant’s death, pursuant to C.G.S. §52-599. The statute provides, "If a party defendant dies, the plaintiff, within one year after receiving written notification of the defendant’s death, may apply to the court in which the action is pending for an order to substitute the decedent’s executor or administrator." The plaintiff failed to establish good cause for failing to file the motion to substitute the estate representative within one year. Although the plaintiff’s attorney apparently indicated that he believed that the conduct of the defendants’ attorney was unfair, because the defendants’ attorney filed a discovery response signed by the deceased defendant after the defendant passed away, the plaintiff’s attorney did not deny that his office received the April 20, 2012, suggestion of death. C.G.S. §52-599 merely requires written notification of the defendant’s death. The plaintiff failed to show good cause, to permit a belated substitution of the estate representative. The court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Rhonda Johnson, and it dismissed the complaint with respect to Rhonda Johnson.