Case dismissed where injured woman's attorneys did not achieve service on Defendant while alive
Arthur Carl Davis caused a motor vehicle collision that injured Sarah Potter. Either Potter was slow in employing attorneys, or the attorneys delayed in filing suit while negotiating with Davis' insurer. In any event, when the attorneys for Potter tried to serve Davis with the negligence complaint in order to start a lawsuit, the security guards would not allow the process server to enter his Oakland County gated community. Several months passed while the attorneys sought the Court's permission to serve Davis with the Summons and Complaint through his insurer or by mail.
In the interim, unbeknownst to Potter or her attorneys, Davis died. More than four months passed after Davis' death without an Estate being opened and the Summons and Complaint being served on Davis' Estate. Since the normal statute of limitations had passed in the interim, the insurer for Davis argued that Potter could not sue Davis' Estate at all.
Even though the Summons and Complaint had been served on Davis' widow and his insurer, and even though the lower court had approved substitute service, the Court of Appeals agreed with the insurer and threw out Potter's claim. It reversed the trial judge who had held that Potter's claim could not expire while Potter was not aware that Davis had died and was making good faith efforts to serve him.