Marcella Brown, the mother of Nicole Brown, originally brought a medical malpractice action against Quest Diagnostics Clinical Laboratories Inc. in the York County Court of Common Pleas back in 2013. The case was filed prior to the death of Nicole Brown, which occurred in 2015. Marcella then began the process of becoming the representative of the deceased’s estate. The trial court had previously dismissed her claim based on her failure to bring the lawsuit in a “timely manner.” In addition, the court stated that the plaintiff had not provided any proper “reasonable explanation” for the delay.
A panel of three judges in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania then reversed the lower court ruling based on a motion for reconsideration and remanded the case back to the county level. The state statute requires that a representative of the estate be appointed and issue letters of administration be processed within a one-year period. The Superior Court found that Marcella Brown had satisfied the time limit as she became the substitute following Nicole’s death. Quest Diagnostics is a publicly-traded diagnostic company with revenues exceeding $7 billion and has over 40,000 employees.
Rule When Named Party Dies
The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure discusses the process of substituting a personal representative to replace a party that dies before court action is resolved. If no substitution is formally processed within a period of one year, the court will terminate the matter unless a reasonable explanation has been provided. Although this process is clearly explained in the statute, the timing of substituting a personal representative is not specifically defined.
Motion for Reconsideration
Parties may ask the court to reassess any prior order. The time period for bringing an appeal is not tolled based on simply filing a motion for reconsideration unless the court approves the motion prior to the deadline for an appeal. An appeal (petition) for reconsideration of an order must be made in writing accompanied by a clear summary of findings to be reviewed (reconsidered). Alleged errors that have occurred must be “concisely” stated within the document.
In general, post-trial motions are to be filed within a period of 10 days. In the case of Philadelphia v. Carpino, it was stated that a motion for reconsideration is not automatically deemed as untimely. The court must simply put in place an order that basically states that the matter is being reconsidered. The time for bringing an appeal begins to “run after the entry of the decision on reconsideration.”
Statute of Limitations
In civil actions the Pennsylvania provisions regarding the statute of limitations in these cases are as follows:
- The statute of limitations for a survival claim accrues at the time the injury occurs or when it is discovered
- The latest potential date that an accrual may occur is upon death
- In cases of wrongful death, the date of when the injury is discovered has generally not been applicable
- The courts have allowed for beginning the two-year period upon discovery in the cases involving asbestos
- In medical malpractice actions, the two-year time limit may begin upon discovery of the injury
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