United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
consolidated cases are before the Court on Massachusetts
Mutual Life Insurance Company's motion to dismiss. Doc.
August 5, 2016, approximately eight and a half months after
the lead case in this action was filed, Massachusetts Mutual
Life Insurance Company (“Mass Mutual”) filed a
“Suggestion of Death” stating that “Counsel
for [Purvis William Hill, Jr.] has notified counsel for Mass.
Mutual that Dr. Hill passed away on July 26, 2016.”
Doc. #41. The notice was electronically mailed to
all counsel of record, including Candace Lenette Williamson,
Hill's daughter and former counsel.
three months later, on November 2, 2016, Mass. Mutual filed a
“Motion for Order Regarding Substitution of
Parties.” Doc. #53. The motion sought (1) an order
“stating that the ninety day time limit under [Federal]
Rule 25 has not yet begun to run” or, in the
alternative, “an Order extending the deadline to file a
motion for substitution until such time as an estate can be
created for Dr. Hill and an administrator can be appointed to
represent his estate;” and (2) “an Order
compelling action and/or information from [Candace]
Williamson.” Id. at ¶¶ 10-13.
November 15, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge Jane M.
Virden granted Mass. Mutual's motion. Doc. #54. In her
order, Judge Virden held that “[t]he 90-day period for
filing a motion to substitute pursuant to Rule 25 has not yet
begun to run” because “[t]he suggestion of death
has not been served in accordance with Rule 4 on any
nonparty.” Id. at 1. The order also directed
that counsel of record for the decedent file a declaration in
this case within 14 days of this order stating: 1) whether an
estate has been or will be opened and the identity of the
estate's representative; 2) if no estate has been but
will be opened, by what date this will occur; and 3) if no
estate has been or will be opened, the identity of the
decedent's legal successor(s) or representative(s).
Counsel is warned that failure to file such declaration in
accordance with this order may result in an appropriate
Id. at 2.
did not file a declaration within the time allowed and, on
December 9, 2016, Judge Virden convened a status conference
“in reference to counsel['s] failure to comply with
[the] prior order.” Doc. #57. Following the conference,
Judge Virden directed that Williamson “must file [a]
declaration by 5:00 pm [on] 12/12/2016.” Id.
December 12, 2016, Williamson, as “Former Attorney for
Dr. Purvis William Hill Jr., Deceased, ” filed a
“Suggestion of Death of Party and Motion for
Continuance.” Doc. #56. In this filing, Williamson
represented that Hill passed away on July 26, 2016, and that
an estate for Hill was opened on or about October 17, 2016.
Id. at 1. According to Williamson, the validity of
Hill's last will and testament was challenged in the
Chancery Court of Coahoma County, Mississippi. Id.
at 2-3. Williamson asked that this matter “be stayed
for a determination of who will pursue the claims of the
Estate.” Id. at 3.
December 19, 2016, Mass. Mutual filed a response, in which it
“consent[ed] to a limited continuance of the deadlines
in this case … to the extent such a continuance is
necessary … for the proper party to be substituted for
Dr. Hill.” Doc. #59. On the same day it filed the
response, Mass. Mutual filed a motion requesting an order
“requiring Candace Williamson to provide regular
reports about her efforts in the Chancery Court.” Doc.
#58. On December 29, 2016, Williamson responded in opposition
to the motion for reports, Doc. #61; and also filed a second
motion to continue, Doc. #62.
January 5, 2017, this Court reset trial in this matter for
June 5, 2017. Doc. #63. Approximately two weeks later, on
January 18, 2017, Judge Virden denied Mass. Mutual's
motion for continued status reports. Doc. #65. Also on
January 18, Judge Virden noticed a telephonic conference for
January 19, 2017.
January 19, 2017, this Court issued an order staying the
consolidated actions “pending a determination of who
will pursue the claims of the Estate” or ninety days,
whichever came first. Doc. #66. Also that day, Williamson did
not appear for the scheduled telephonic conference.
Accordingly, Judge Virden issued an order directing
Williamson to submit periodic status reports including
“details of the status of the estate proceedings in
Chancery Court” and “details of efforts made by
Ms. Williamson to have a representative appointed for Dr.
Hill's estate;” and to file the first report on
January 24, 2017, and then “file an updated report
every 21 days thereafter.” Doc. #67.
filed a status report on January 24, 2017, which included a
status of the chancery proceedings but included no details of
efforts to secure a representative. Doc. #68. This filing is
the only status report of record.
March 6, 2017, Mass. Mutual filed a “Motion for Entry
of an Order to Show Cause, ” seeking an order requiring
Williamson to show cause why the case should not be
dismissed. Doc. #69. Judge Virden noticed the show cause
motion for a March 16, 2017, hearing. Doc. ...