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Florida Second DCA rules that filing listing plaintiffs as proposed personal representatives of deceased's estate was not "suggestion of death" triggering 90-day period for party substitution

On January 19, 2018, in Blue v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. 2D16-3007, the Florida Second DCA reversed a trial court’s dismissal of a complaint, ruling that the trial court erred in its conclusion that the plaintiffs had failed to timely move to substitute proper parties within 90 days after death was suggested upon the record as provided in Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.260(a)(1). After the original plaintiff died, his daughters filed a joint notice explaining that two defendants were being dropped from the case. The joint notice included a characterization of the daughters as proposed personal representatives of the deceased plaintiff’s estate. When the daughters subsequently moved to substitute themselves as proper parties more than 90 days after the joint notice had been filed, the defendant tobacco company successfully moved to dismiss the case on the basis that the substitution was untimely. The Second DCA concluded that although Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.260(a)(1) does not explicitly require that a document be labeled a “suggestion of death,” the statute “at the very least” requires that the document filed be filed for the purpose of alerting the litigants to the party’s death.