Subject-Matter Jurisdiction - Action Filed Against Deceased Defendant


Kelton v. Caldwell, [Ms. 2170660, Feb. 15, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2019). This unanimous decision by Judge Donaldson dismisses, ex mero motu, the defendant’s appeal from a judgment of the Dallas Circuit Court in an ejectment action on the ground that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. It was undisputed that at the time the plaintiff commenced the ejectment action, the defendant was deceased. Ms. *2.

Although the trial court subsequently granted plaintiff’s motion to add the original defendant’s widow as a defendant, the court held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to do so. The court held

[An action] instituted against an individual who is deceased at the time the action is filed [is] a nullity and do[es] not invoke the trial court’s jurisdiction. Maclin v. Congo, 106 So. 3d 405, 408 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012). Such an action is void ab initio, and [t]he trial court ha[s] no jurisdiction to entertain an amendment of the complaint or any further motions or pleadings; it [is] required to dismiss the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id.

Ms. *3-4 (internal quotation marks omitted).

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