Nobles v. Bonney

Citation359 Ga.App. 544,859 S.E.2d 518
Decision Date21 May 2021
Docket NumberA21A0243
CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)

359 Ga.App. 544
859 S.E.2d 518



Court of Appeals of Georgia.

May 21, 2021

Milam Law Firm, John Philip Milam, for Appellant.

Law Office of Nancy W. Phillips, Z'a Reshey Williams; Worsham Corsi Scott & Dobur, Alina Annie Krivitsky ; Waldon Adelman Castilla Hiestand & Prout, Dane Jefferson Uhelski, for Appellee.

Dillard, Presiding Judge.

Richard Nobles appeals the trial court's dismissal with prejudice of his negligence action against Kunio Bonney, which arose from a car accident. Bonney died during the litigation, but Nobles never filed a motion to substitute a new defendant. Instead, he filed a motion to dismiss the case without prejudice. Even so, the trial court dismissed the case with prejudice because Nobles never filed a substitution motion, much less a timely one. Nobles argues that the trial court erred in doing so and should have dismissed the case without prejudice. For the reasons noted infra , we reverse and remand the case with direction.

On or about August 28, 2016, Nobles and Bonney had a car accident in which they were both injured.1 Approximately two years later, on August 22, 2018, Nobles filed a negligence action against Bonney to recover

859 S.E.2d 519

for his injuries. But on December 8, 2018, during the pendency of this litigation, Bonney died and his counsel filed a suggestion of death on March 4, 2019.2 Nevertheless, discovery continued; but Nobles never filed a motion to substitute another defendant for Bonney. Eventually, on February 21, 2020 (approximately one year after the suggestion of death was filed), Nobles filed a motion to dismiss the case without prejudice under OCGA § 9-11-41.3 But instead of granting this motion, the trial court dismissed the case with prejudice, finding that Nobles's dismissal motion was a nullity because he never filed a motion for substitution of a new defendant, much less a timely one. Under these circumstances, the trial court found that dismissal of the case was mandatory. This appeal follows.

We review the trial court's ruling on a motion to dismiss "under the de novo standard of review."4 And with this standard in mind, we will consider Nobles's sole claim of error.

Specifically, Nobles argues that the trial court erred in finding that dismissal with prejudice was mandatory under OCGA § 9-11-25 (a) (1) and failing to grant his motion to dismiss without prejudice when it was permitted, timely, and valid. We agree.

OCGA § 9-11-25 (a) (1) provides:

If a party dies and the claim is not thereby extinguished, the court may order substitution of the proper parties. The motion for substitution may be made by any party or by the successors or representative of the deceased party and, together with the notice of the hearing, shall be served on the parties as provided in Code Section 9-11-5 and upon persons not parties in the manner provided in Code Section 9-11-4 for the service of a summons. Unless the motion for substitution is made not later than 180 days after the death is suggested upon the record by service of a statement of the fact of the death, the action shall be dismissed as to the deceased party.5

It is undisputed that Nobles never filed a motion for substitution after Bonney's counsel filed the suggestion of death, much less within the time period required by the foregoing statute. Nevertheless, Nobles contends that his motion to dismiss the case without prejudice should have been granted because it was valid and timely. In this regard, OCGA § 9-11-41 (a) (1) (A) provides:

By plaintiff; by stipulation. Subject to the provisions of subsection (e) of Code Section 9-11-23, Code Section 9-11-66, and any statute, an action may be dismissed by the plaintiff, without order or permission of court ... [b]y filing a written notice of dismissal at any time before the first witness is sworn ....6


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1 cases
  • Union Carbide Corp. v. Brannan
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 25, 2021
    ...the personal representative of the deceased. Id. at 338-339 (1), (2), 249 S.E.2d 21. See also Nobles v. Bonney , 359 Ga. App. 544, 859 S.E.2d 518 (Case No. A21A0243 decided May 21, 2021) (concluding under Wofford that a plaintiff's right to dismiss a case without prejudice under OCGA § 9-11......

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