The Missouri wrongful death statute of limitations is three years. This means that a Missouri wrongful death petition must be on file with the court three years calculated from the date of the decedent’s death. This statute of limitations is found in Missouri statute 537.100.
Sometimes, problems arise when parties who lack legal standing file a wrongful death lawsuit under RSMO 537.080 within the three-year period and thereafter the proper party wishes to intervene in the lawsuit. This is why it is very important to determine who is the preferred wrongful death class member under 537.090.
In Peyton v. Bellefontaine Gardens Nursing & Rehab, Inc., 246 S.W.3d 914, 915-916 (Mo. 2008), an improper plaintiff filed a wrongful death case within the three-year period. After the statute of limitations ran, the court refused to allow amendment of the petition substituting the proper plaintiff, ruling the court lacked jurisdiction over a case brought by one without standing and cited Farmer v. Kinder, 89 S.W.3d 447, 451 (Mo. banc 2002).
While recognizing this to be the rule, the Court of Appeals found an exception by concluding the original plaintiff did in fact have standing to bring this Missouri wrongful death claim because she had a legal or beneficial interest in the case.
The court cited Missouri rule of civil procedure Rule 55.33(c), which states if a claim asserted in the amended pleading arose from the same “occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading, the amendment relates back to the date of the original pleading.”
Where a plaintiff does not have a legal or beneficial interest in a Missouri wrongful death lawsuit, amendment after the statute of limitations runs will be dismissed by the Courts for lack of jurisdiction. This harsh rule exemplifies why it is extremely important to hire an experienced wrongful death lawyer to handle your case.
Wrongful death cases are very technical and require strict adherence to the statutes, case law, and pleading requirements set forth in the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure. If you have questions about this kind of situation regarding the loss of a loved one in Missouri, contact us to talk to a St. Louis wrongful death lawyer today.