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Court upholds decision that running of statute of limitations is not an "emergency" sufficient to require opening of Probate Estate without notice

David Charles Whitaker attempted to sue Jacob Bontekoe and his wife, after Bontekoe caused a motor vehicle collision that injured Whitaker.  Bontekoe suffered from Alzheimer's or dementia, and his wife left him in her car after depositing the keys under the seat.  Whitaker attempted to sue Bontekoe's estate days before his statute of limitations would run.  He did not have time to give the standard notice to the Interested Persons in Bontekoe's Estate, and the Court ruled that the running of Whitaker's statute of limitations did not constitute an emergency sufficient to allow Whitaker to open the Estate without notice.

Whitaker also attempted to sue Bontekoe's wife for negligence.  He argued that leaving the man with documented dementia in the 85 degree car with the keys available to him was unreasonable.  The trial court held that Bonekoe's wife owed no duty to Whitaker or others to act reasonably to prevent foreseeable injury, and the Court of Appeals reversed this decision.  It pointed out that this was a factual issue that had not been adequately investigated.

Whitaker's attorneys had also sought to sue Bonekoe's Estate by securing alternative  service of the pleadings on his insurer, State Farm.  The Court ruled that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in quashing service in this manner, given Whitaker's failed attempts to open a probate estate and his attorneys' failure to fully disclose those efforts to the lower court.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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