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Estate of Chubb v. Daimler Trucks North America LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 19, 2019

ESTATE OF JACOB CHUBB, ENDELIA CHUBB, Plaintiffs,
v.
DAIMLER TRUCKS NORTH AMERICA LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER DISMISSING CASE

          Terrence G. Berg, United States District Judge.

         Jacob Chubb died tragically in a truck accident on March 13, 2015. His mother, Beth Ann Chubb, as the personal representative of the Estate of Jacob Chubb, and his widow, Enedelia Chubb, [1] filed this Complaint on March 13, 2018 alleging that Defendant Daimler Trucks North America LLC (“Daimler”) was liable for Mr. Chubb's death based on theories of negligence, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium. ECF No. 1. The Court has jurisdiction over the matter based on the parties' diversity of citizenship. On January 4, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint as barred by the statute of limitations. ECF No. 22. The Court heard oral argument on the motion on May 20, 2019.

         At oral argument, Plaintiffs' counsel for the first time disclosed that the Estate of Jacob Chubb, which is one of the named Plaintiffs in this action, was closed-and had no legal existence-when this Complaint was filed. Plaintiffs have consequently conceded that, as the case currently stands, the named Plaintiffs are not the real “parties in interest” and therefore have no standing to continue this lawsuit. At oral argument Plaintiffs raised the prospect of asking the Court to dismiss without prejudice so that the case could be re-filed on behalf of the proper party in interest. The Court directed Plaintiffs' counsel to file a written motion to this effect, which he did on June 6, 2019, styled as a motion for voluntary dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41. ECF No. 32.

         Having reviewed the grounds set forth in both Defendant's motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations and Plaintiffs' motion for voluntary dismissal, the Court concludes that neither motion is well-taken, but rather that Plaintiffs' lack of standing compels dismissal of the Complaint. The Court therefore DISMISSES the Complaint and DENIES as moot both pending motions.

         I. Facts

         After Mr. Chubb's death in March 2015, his estate was opened in Monroe County Probate Court. Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 32 PageID.263. The probate court issued letters of authority on behalf of the Estate to Beth Ann Chubb, Mr. Chubb's mother. Complaint, ECF No. 1 PageID.2. On February 10, 2017, after Ms. Chubb failed to provide the probate court with an inventory of the estate, and after numerous notices of deficiency were mailed, the probate court administratively closed the Estate. Ex. 1 to Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 32-1 PageID.270.

         Apparently without realizing that the Estate was closed, Plaintiffs filed this Complaint on March 13, 2018, naming the Estate and Enedelia Chubb, Mr. Chubb's widow, as Plaintiffs. After the Complaint was filed, Plaintiffs failed to serve Defendant for many months. Seeing that the case was languishing, on June 29, 2018, some 107 days after Plaintiffs filed the Complaint, the Court ordered Plaintiffs to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. ECF No. 4. The Order to Show Cause required a response from Plaintiffs no later than July 6, 2018. Plaintiffs missed this deadline and responded on July 11, 2018. ECF No. 5. After reviewing Plaintiffs' response, the Court extended the expiration of the summons until August 17, 2018. ECF No. 7. Plaintiffs also missed this deadline by failing to serve Defendant before the summons expired. Observing again that Plaintiffs were not prosecuting the case, the Court issued a second show cause order on October 1, 2018. By this time, nearly seven months had gone by since the Complaint was filed, but Plaintiffs had still not taken any efforts to serve Defendant with the Complaint. ECF No. 8. Plaintiffs responded to the second Order to Show Cause on October 9, 2018. ECF No. 9. Again, after reviewing the response, the Court extended the expiration of the summons to October 31, 2018. ECF No. 10. Plaintiffs finally served Defendant on October 31, 231 days after the Complaint was filed.

         According to Plaintiffs, this delay was necessary “to facilitate resolution of disputes between the stakeholders, determine liens and serve the best interests of the minors.” Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 24 PageID.197. The Court, however, questions why Defendant could not have been served until after these matters were resolved.

         II. Analysis

         The pending motions require the Court to consider a series of issues, addressed in turn below.

         a. Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue at the outset of this case.

         Defendant first objects to dismissal on Plaintiffs' terms because Plaintiffs have submitted only the docket sheet from the probate court indicating that the Estate was closed. On this basis, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs have not adequately rebutted their initial allegation that Beth Ann Chubb is the personal representative of the Estate.[2] Defendant further contends that because the probate court docket sheet would be inadmissible at trial, Plaintiffs cannot rely on it to prove their lack of standing.

         A district court may not rely on evidence to decide a motion where that evidence could not be presented in any admissible form at trial. Bailey v. Floyd Cty. Bd. of Educ., 106 F.3d 135, 145 (6th Cir. 1997) (“The proffered evidence need not be in admissible form, but its content must be admissible.”) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Here, Defendant has not shown that the content of the docket sheet could not be presented in any admissible form. See Oglesby v. Lesan, 929 F.3d 526, 534 (8th Cir. 2019) (affirming district court's consideration of a state court docket report for summary judgment purposes); Buck v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 597 F.3d 812, 816 (6th Cir. 2010) (finding that a court may “take judicial notice of other court proceedings” when deciding a motion to dismiss). The Court may therefore rely on the probate court's docket sheet to inform this proceeding.

         The docket sheet showing mailed notices of deficiency and ultimate closure of the Estate is sufficient to prove that the Estate was closed when Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in March 2018. Because the proper party in an action such as this is the personal representative of the Estate, but the Estate referenced in the Complaint is not in ...


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