Argued: September 13, 2018
& Leahy, PLLC, of Penacook (Linda B. Sullivan Leahy on
the brief and orally), for the plaintiff.
O'Shaughnessy, Walker & Buchholz, P.A., of Manchester
(James G. Walker on the brief and orally), for the defendant.
plaintiff, Monica Anderson, appeals a decision of the
Superior Court (O'Neill, J.) dismissing her
personal injury action against the defendant, the Estate of
Mary D. Wood, as time-barred by RSA 508:4 (2010). We reverse
following facts are taken from the trial court's orders;
the procedural history is taken from the record before us. On
April 5, 2013, the plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle
accident with a vehicle driven by Mary D. Wood (Wood). The
plaintiff commenced suit by complaint dated March 25, 2016,
alleging that Wood had caused her injury by negligently
rear-ending her vehicle. The complaint was mistakenly served
on Wood's daughter, who was also named Mary D. Wood. The
daughter moved to dismiss on the grounds that Wood had passed
away on January 22, 2015, and the plaintiff had no cause of
action against the daughter, who was neither the
administrator of Wood's estate nor had any legal
relationship with, or legal duty to, the plaintiff.
April 29, 2016, the plaintiff moved to amend her complaint to
substitute the Estate of Mary D. Wood for Mary D. Wood as the
defendant. The plaintiff's motion alleged that she had
filed a petition for estate administration for the Estate of
Mary D. Wood and that she would serve notice of the action on
the estate once the circuit court ruled on that petition.
30, 2016, the trial court dismissed the action, ruling,
sua sponte, that it did not have subject matter
jurisdiction. The court noted the plaintiff's concession
that she had filed the action against the wrong defendant,
but concluded that it could not grant her motion to amend
because there was "nothing in the record to suggest . .
. that an Estate of Mary D. Wood presently exists." The
parties did not dispute that Wood died intestate and no
estate had been opened immediately following her death. The
court acknowledged the plaintiff's allegation that she
had sought to open an estate, but noted that the plaintiff
had not provided "any documentation demonstrating that
the [circuit court] ever issued a grant of administration of
said estate." Accordingly, the court dismissed the
action, ruling that "there is presently no legal entity
that can be properly substituted for the current defendant
such that this Court would possess subject matter
jurisdiction over this action pursuant to RSA 556:7."
See RSA 556:7 (2007).
August 2016, a certificate of appointment was issued, naming
an administrator of the Estate of Mary D. Wood. The plaintiff
filed her complaint in the instant action on April 4, 2017.
The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the statute of
limitations had run on the claim.
trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The court ruled
that because the action "is one for personal injury, and
it was not pending until after [Wood's] death[, ] . . .
said action falls within the purview of RSA 556:11, and is
thus subject to the limitations of RSA 508:4."
See RSA 508:4; RSA 556:11 (2007). The court further
It is undisputed that the accident giving rise to the present
cause of action occurred on April 5, 2013. Therefore, in
order to satisfy the three-year statute of limitations period
set forth in RSA 508:4, the plaintiff was required to file
the present action by April 5, 2016. Because the present
action was filed April 4, 2017, nearly one year after the
three-year statute of limitations had run, the Court finds
that the plaintiff's claim is time-barred by RSA 508:4.
first set forth our standard of review.
In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to
dismiss, we generally consider whether the [plaintiff's]
allegations are reasonably susceptible of a construction that
would permit recovery. The [defendant], however, moved to
dismiss based exclusively upon the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is an ...