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Goodwin v. South Carolina State University

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division

November 10, 2014

John Goodwin, Plaintiff,
v.
South Carolina State University; Small Business Development Centers; Michelle Abraham; Barbara Adams; and Dolline Tucker, Defendants.

ORDER ON SUGGESTION OF DEATH OF PLAINTIFF

SHIVA V. HODGES, Magistrate Judge.

This employment case comes before the court on the Suggestion of Death of Plaintiff, as indicated by Plaintiff's counsel. [ECF No. 19].[1] This case has been referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b) (1)(A) and (B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g) (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 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.

There is no indication on the record that the Suggestion of Death has been served on Plaintiff's personal representative or any successors or other representatives of Plaintiff.[2] Therefore, Plaintiff's counsel is instructed to serve a copy of its Suggestion of Death and this order, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4, on any known personal representative of Plaintiff and to file proof of said service by November 24, 2014.

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.


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