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Monday, November 23, 2020

New Case on Who Is Able to Bring a Tort Claim on Behalf of a Decedent Who Died Before Suit Is Filed from Causes Unrelated to the Tort Action in Question

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Jones v. Martin, No. W2019-02047-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

Appellant and her son were driver and passenger, respectively, in a motor vehicle when they were struck in the rear by a vehicle driven by one of the Appellees. Appellant’s son later died from medical causes not related to the accident. Appellant then filed suit for injuries in her own name and as next of kin of her deceased son. Following arguments by the Appellees that Appellant had no authority to prosecute the case on behalf of her son, the trial court dismissed the claim corresponding to the injuries allegedly sustained by the son. Appellant then took a nonsuit of her remaining claim. This appeal concerns initially whether or not the judgment on appeal is a final judgment and, if so, the application of Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-5-102 to this case. Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-5-102, which provides for the survival of actions despite the death of the person wronged, specifies that the right of action shall pass “in like manner as the right of action described in § 20-5-106.” By way of that referenced authority, it is clear that a next of kin is one of the persons authorized to bring an action that survives under section 20-5-102. For the reasons set out herein, we conclude that we have jurisdiction to hear this appeal and reverse the trial court’s dismissal. 

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

NOTE: As the title of this blog post indicates, this opinion does a good job of explaining who may bring a tort claim on behalf of a decedent who dies before suit is filed from causes unrelated to the tort action in question.  Pay attention to footnote 4 and its citation to Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 20-5-104; a prerequisite to being able to revive the tort suit via the deceased's heirs is that it be shown that no person will administer the deceased's estate.   (Be mindful, too, that any recovery made in instances like the one presented in this case is property of the deceased's estate.)  

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