The Mississippi Supreme Court has ended more than seven years of litigation in denying a wrongful death claim that improperly named a deceased man as the plaintiff.
In its Oct. 14, 2010 ruling, the Court held in a 5-3 opinion that the asbestos-related lawsuit filed in 2002 in the name of Lonnie Pittman violated jurisdictional and statute of limitation laws and made all claims by the Pittman family improper and void. Following Mr. Pittman's death in 2001, his family originally filed suit naming him as the plaintiff, then three years later attempted to substitute an estate representative in the plaintiff's spot. The Court ruled such substitution was improper.
The decision, authored by Chief Justice William Waller, renders a final judgment in favor of 10 clients represented by the Jackson, Miss.-based firm of Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy as well as other defendants. The Supreme Court ruling reverses a September 2008 decision issued by the Hinds County Circuit Court ordering that the Pittman lawsuit should proceed to trial. According to Forman Perry attorneys, the Court's opinion both re-confirms historical principles and establishes new precedent for asbestos-related wrongful death suits.
Forman Perry attorneys successfully argued that a tort claim filed directly in the name of a deceased person – rather than the name of a proper estate representative or death beneficiary – is improper. In ruling that such a claim is jurisdictionally void, the Court agreed that an "amended complaint" cannot relate back to the initial filing, and that the filed suit does not suspend the state's three-year statute of limitations. Although this principle had been cited by the Mississippi Court of Appeals, it had never been expressly adopted by the state's Supreme Court before the recent decision.
Forman Perry's clients that were defendants-appellants in the consolidated appeal included Trane US Inc.; Gardner Denver Inc.; General Electric Company; Gorman-Rupp Co.; Dorr-Oliver Inc.; Keeler/Dorr-Oliver Inc.; Sulzer Pumps (US); Warren Pumps Inc.; Warren Rupp Inc.; and Yuba Heat Transfer LLC.
Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy is a national trial firm focusing on tort, environmental and commercial litigation. The firm is home to more than 85 attorneys in Jackson, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston and New Orleans who have represented clients in state and federal courts across the U.S. for more than 20 years. More information is available at http://www.fpwkt.com.