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Richards v. Baptist Health System, Inc.

Supreme Court of Alabama

December 19, 2014

Ralph Richards, as personal representative of Mary Richards, deceased
v.
Baptist Health System, Inc., d/b/a Walker Baptist Medical Center

Appeal from Walker Circuit Court (CV-09-900332)

MAIN, Justice.

AFFIRMED. NO OPINION.

See Rule 53(a)(1) and (a)(2)(F), Ala. R. App. P.

Stuart, Bolin, Parker, Shaw, Wise, and Bryan, JJ., concur.

Moore, C.J., dissents.

MURDOCK, Justice (concurring specially).

Based on the rationale I expressed in my dissent in Wood v. Wayman, 47 So.3d 1212, 1219-20 (Ala. 2012), I believe the trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of the defendant in the present case. For all that appears, the trial court based its decision on the opinion of this Court in Downtown Nursing Home, Inc. v. Pool, 375 So.2d 465 (Ala. 1979). As I discussed in my dissent in Wood v. Wayman, however, that case and the opinion of this Court in Strickland v. Mobile Towing & Wrecking Co., 293 Ala. 348, 303 So.2d 98 (1974), the case upon which Downtown Nursing Home, Inc. v. Pool relied, are no longer good law. That said, we do not have before us a request to overrule Wood v. Wayman nor, for that matter, an argument similar to the one I made in my dissent in Wood v. Wayman. I therefore concur in affirming the summary judgment.

MOORE, Chief Justice (dissenting).

I agree with the appellant Ralph Richards ("Ralph") that his application for letters of administration naming him personal representative of the estate of his mother, Mary Richards, relates back to his timely filing of a wrongful-death action on her behalf. I therefore respectfully dissent from the majority's affirmance of the summary judgment entered for Baptist Health System, Inc., d/b/a/ Walker Baptist Medical Center ("Baptist Health").

I. Factual Background

The facts in this case are undisputed. Mary Richards died on September 24, 2007.[1] Her son, Ralph, filed a wrongful-death complaint on her behalf on September 23, 2009, one day before the two-year statute of limitations for a wrongful-death action expired. See § 6-5-410(d), Ala. Code 1975. The caption of the complaint describes the plaintiff as "Ralph Richards as Personal Representative of Mary Richards, deceased." Alabama law provides that "[a] personal representative may commence an action" based on an alleged wrongful death. § 6-5-410(a), Ala. Code 1975. Although the caption of the timely filed complaint identifies Ralph as Mary's personal representative, Ralph did not apply for letters of administration for his mother's estate until July 12, 2010, over nine months after the expiration of the two-year limitations period for filing the wrongful-death action. The Walker Probate Court issued the letters of administration on August 3, 2010.

Baptist Health filed its answer on October 15, 2009, and moved for a summary judgment on March 18, 2014, arguing that Ralph's formal appointment as personal representative after the expiration of the statutory limitations period did not relate back to the timely filing of the wrongful-death action. In the trial court Baptist Health relied on Downtown Nursing Home, Inc. v. Pool, 375 So.2d 465 (Ala. 1979), which cited Strickland v. Mobile Towing & Wrecking Co., 293 Ala. 348, 303 So.2d 98 (1974), for the holding that "any action by the administrator occurring prior to his appointment was a nullity and therefore ...


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