Jenkins v. Estate of Thomas

In Jenkins v. Estate of Thomas, 800 P.2d 1358 (Colo. App. 1990), Jenkins filed suit against Thomas for personal injury more than a year after Thomas had died and his estate had been closed. Jenkins served the former personal representative of Thomas' estate without taking any steps to reopen the estate. Jenkins then moved to substitute Thomas' estate pursuant to Colorado's version of Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 25. The trial court dismissed Jenkins' claim with prejudice because he had not substituted a party defendant within the appropriate period of time. The Colorado Court of Appeals disregarded the parties' arguments on the merits of the case and determined that substitution was not applicable to the facts because the decedent had died before the action was instituted. The court then considered whether the district court had properly dismissed the action and stated: "Because decedent, the alleged tortfeasor, was dead at the time the action was filed, and because the personal representative of his estate had been discharged, there was no legal entity named as a party defendant. Accordingly, since there was no controversy between legal entities, there was no subject matter to be litigated, and the court was without jurisdiction to proceed. Thus, the trial court properly dismissed the action." 800 P.2d at 1359. However, the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's dismissal of the action with prejudice. It held that because of the absence of a proper party, there was no adjudication on the merits, and the action should have been dismissed without prejudice. 800 P.2d at 1359-60.