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WRONGFUL DEATH & STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS - ALVARADO V. ESTATE OF KIDD

Alvarado v. Estate of Kidd, [Ms. 1140706, Jan. 29, 2016] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2016). To file a wrongful death action, the plaintiff must be appointed as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate before the statute of limitations runs. Here, the decedent’s widower petitioned for letters of administration one week before the two-year period of limitations ran and filed an action the next day. He was not appointed personal representative until ten days after the expiration of the limitations period. The Court holds that the appointment does not relate back to the date of filing the petition for letters of administration. The Court severely narrows the ruling of Ogle v. Gordon, 706 So. 2d 707 (Ala. 1997), where the issuance of letters was allowed to relate back where the petition for letters was filed four months after the decedent’s death but the probate court did not issue letters for another twenty-seven months, i.e., not until after the period of limitations had run. Because only six days ran between the petitioning for letters and the running of the statute of limitations, and the probate court issued letters only ten days later, the short delay in issuing letters of administration was not “inadvertence” or “dereliction” by the probate court as it was in Ogle.

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