Smith v. Langford, P-113

Citation255 So.2d 294
Decision Date09 December 1971
Docket NumberNo. P-113,P-113
PartiesGwendolyn Anne SMITH, Appellant, v. Billie Ray LANGFORD, Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)

WIGGINTON, J.

Plaintiff seeks appellate review of a final judgment dismissing her complaint without prejudice. The judgment recites as ground for the dismissal a lack of jurisdiction by the court over the parties to the cause, both plaintiff and defendant.

The complaint filed by appellant pursuant to the provisions of F.S. chapter 742, F.S.A., seeks a judicial determination that defendant is the father of her unborn child. The complaint contains no allegations concerning the age of plaintiff or her legal capacity to bring and maintain this action. By his motion to dismiss, appellee challenged the jurisdiction of the court over the person of the plaintiff by alleging that she was a minor and had failed to bring this suit by her guardian or next friend as required by law.

At the commencement of the hearing on appellee's motion to dismiss the complaint, appellant's attorney made an ore tenus motion to the court for an order permitting her to amend her complaint by adding as a party plaintiff her mother, Mary Elizabeth Smith, as next friend. It was the purpose of such proposed amendment to recast the pleadings so as to bring the suit in the name of plaintiff by her mother as next friend. The court took plaintiff's motion under advisement and proceeded to hear argument on the merits of appellee's motion to dismiss. Without ruling on plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint, the court entered the final judgment of dismissal now before us for review. The judgment contains the following recital as the ground on which it is based, to wit:

'. . . it is the opinion of the Court that the minor Plaintiff, lacking capacity to sue in her own name, must comply with Rule 1.210(b), Florida RCP, and in failing to comply therewith has given the Court no jurisdiction over the parties hereto; and that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss should therefore be granted. . . .'

It is apparent that the trial court concluded it had no jurisdiction over the parties to this action because plaintiff had not brought this action in her name by her next friend or guardian as required by Rule 1.210(b), Rules of Civil Procedure, 30 F.S.A., which is as follows:

'Infants or Incompetent Persons. When an infant or incompetent person has a representative, such as a guardian or other like fiduciary, the representative may sue or defend on behalf of the infant or incompetent person. If an infant or incompetent person does not have a duly appointed representative, he may sue by his next friend or by a guardian ad litem. The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for an infant or incompetent person not otherwise represented in an action or shall make such other order as it deems proper for the protection of the infant or incompetent person.'

It is our view that the foregoing provision of our rule of practice is procedural only and does not constitute a jurisdictional bar to an action brought by or against a minor in his individual capacity. The rule clearly provides that if an infant plaintiff does not have a duly appointed representative, he may sue by his next friend or by a guardian ad litem. The rule further provides that if it should appear to the court that a party to an action is an infant and not otherwise represented, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for such infant or shall make such other order as it deems proper for the protection of the infant. The rule confers upon the trial court the discretion to make such provision for the protection of the infant's interest in the litigation as may appear proper and necessary, but it does not divest the court of jurisdiction over the person of the infant merely because he brings the suit as plaintiff or is sued as a defendant in an individual capacity and not by a guardian or next friend.

The procedural as distinguished from the jurisdictional character of Rule 1.210(b), R.C.P., was recognized by this court in the case of Brown v. Ripley 1 in which we said:

'. . . Under another line of decisions rendered by the Supreme Court prior to the present rules of civil procedure it was held that the failure to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent an infant defendant was an error in procedure only, subject to reversal on appeal or amenable to direct attack, but such error did not render the judgment void or subject to collateral attack. Polk v. Chase National Co., 120 Fla. 243, 162 So. 521; Quigley v. Cremin, 94 Fla. 104, 113 So. 892; McDaniel v. McElvy, 91 Fla. 770, 108 So. 820, 51 A.L.R. 731. The latter authorities are in harmony with our disposition of this appeal.'

In directing what action the trial court should take when it is made to appear that one of the parties to the cause is an infant and is not represented in the case by a guardian or next friend, this court said:

'. . . When it became known to the trial judge that the defendant in this case was a minor, it was his duty to either appoint a guardian ad litem for him or to file in the case an order as contemplated by the rule. Affirmative action is necessary to satisfy the rule.'

Because of the trial court's failure to appoint a legal representative of the minor defendant involved in Brown, supra, the judgment against the minor was set aside and the cause remanded for further proceedings and the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent the minor.

The position taken by this court in Brown, supra, represents the majority view in this country which treats the failure of an infant to bring his action by his guardian or next friend as required by law to be merely a procedural defect subject to amendment and not a...

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7 cases
  • Kingsley v. Kingsley
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • August 18, 1993
    ...in his own name such defect can be cured by the subsequent appointment of a next friend or guardian ad litem. Smith v. Langford, 255 So.2d 294, 297 (Fla. 1st DCA 1971). See also Brown v. Ripley, 119 So.2d 712, 714-15 (Fla. 1st DCA 1960). Thus, the concept of capacity determines the procedur......
  • Smith v. Rainey
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 30, 2010
    ...his own name such defect can be cured by the subsequent appointment of a next friend or guardian ad litem.”) (citing Smith v. Langford, 255 So.2d 294, 297 (Fla. 1st DCA 1971)). 3. Apparently, both children are represented in their open dependency cases by a guardian ad litem. See Amended Co......
  • Beermann v. Beermann
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • February 12, 1997
    ...that bringing of action by minor without aid of another was "an amendable irregularity which could be waived."); Smith v. Langford, 255 So.2d 294, 296 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1971) (construing identical state provision and concluding the appointment of a guardian ad litem is discretionary and proc......
  • Price's Welfare, In re, 1615--II
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • May 8, 1975
    ...of Pensions and Security, 277 Ala. 5, 166 So.2d 736 (1964); Johnson v. Lambotte, 147 Colo. 203, 363 P.2d 165 (1961); Smith v. Langford, 255 So.2d 294 (Fla.App.1971); Gann v. Burton, Tenn., 511 S.W.2d 244 (1974).5 Of course, there would be circumstances in which a lawyer could not act proper......
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