Curtis v. Quality Floors, Inc

In Curtis v. Quality Floors, Inc., 653 So. 2d 963 (Ala. 1995) Clara Curtis was injured when she slipped and fell in a Food World supermarket on November 13, 1989. Within the two years allowed by the statute of limitations, she and her husband Clarence filed a slip-and-fall action against Bruno's, Inc., doing business as Food World. Clara Curtis died on October 21, 1992, while the action against Bruno's was pending. At that time, Quality Floors, Inc., had not been named as a defendant, and the Curtises had not sued any fictitiously named defendants. On November 17, 1993, Clarence Curtis amended the complaint to add Quality Floors as a defendant and to add a wrongful-death claim, seeking damages for Clara's death. Quality Floors moved for a summary judgment, arguing that "an action based on wrongful death is barred by the statute of limitations if, at the time of the death, an action based on personal injuries that are alleged to have caused the death is time-barred." 653 So. 2d at 963. Quality Floors argued that the statutory limitations period for the personal-injury claim had expired on November 13, 1991, and, therefore, that the personal representative's wrongful-death claim against Quality Floors was also barred. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Quality Floors, and this Court affirmed that judgment. The Court stated, "The plain language of the wrongful death statute states that the personal representative may commence a wrongful death action, 'provided the testator or intestate could have commenced an action for such wrongful act, omission, or negligence if it had not caused death.'" 653 So. 2d at 964. See 6-5-410, Ala. Code 1975. Speaking to the effect of this proviso, Justice Shores stated: "Our cases hold that if a decedent's cause of action is time-barred at his or her death, then the decedent's personal representative cannot bring a wrongful death action. Northington v. Carey-Canada, Inc., 432 So. 2d 1231 (Ala. 1983), affirming a summary judgment on the authority of Ellis v. Black Diamond Coal Mining Co., 268 Ala. 576, 109 So. 2d 699 (1959); Garrett v. Raytheon Co., 368 So. 2d 516 (Ala. 1979); and Tyson v. Johns-Manville Sales Corp., 399 So. 2d 263 (Ala. 1981)." Curtis, 653 So. 2d at 964 .