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House v. Mitra QSR KNE LLC

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

October 29, 2019, Argued; December 3, 2019, Decided

No. 18-1779

Opinion

 [*783]  PAMELA HARRIS, Circuit Judge:

The designated plaintiff in this case, Kenneth House, died two days before suit was filed in his name against his former employer, defendant Mitra QSR KNE LLC. ] Under governing Maryland law, House's claims could be pursued only by the personal representative of his estate, and so House sought to substitute the estate representative as plaintiff. Instead, the district court granted summary judgment to Mitra, holding that because House  [*784]  was deceased when suit was filed, the purported action was a "mere nullity." And that defect, the court found, could not be cured under Rule 17(a)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which allows for substitution of a proper party when suit is brought in the name of someone other than the real party in interest.

House now seeks to appeal that ruling. [**2]  But because House lacks standing, we must dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. We conclude that House lacks standing on appeal for much the same reason Mitra prevailed in the district court: House's suit, instituted in the name of a deceased plaintiff, suffers from two distinct flaws. The first — that it was not brought in the name of the estate representative — gives rise to a non-jurisdictional issue regarding the real party in interest that could be addressed under Rule 17. But the second — that a deceased plaintiff lacks Article III standing — amounts to a jurisdictional defect that falls outside Rule 17's scope and cannot be cured.

While working as General Manager at a Baltimore KFC location owned by Mitra, House informed his supervisor that he suffered from alcoholism — a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - and that he had been accepted into a twenty-eight-day treatment program. Though House was assured that his job would be waiting for him when he completed treatment, he returned from treatment to learn that he had been terminated. House filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, which subsequently issued a right to sue letter on November [**3]  14, 2016, giving House ninety days — until February 13, 2017 - to file a lawsuit against Mitra.

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796 Fed. Appx. 783 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 35864 **; 2019 WL 6492490

KENNETH HOUSE, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. MITRA QSR KNE LLC, d/b/a KFC, Defendant - Appellee.

Notice: PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. George L. (1:17-cv-00412-GLR). Russell, III, District Judge.

House v. Mitra QSR KNE, LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91529 (D. Md., May 30, 2018)

Disposition: DISMISSED.

CORE TERMS

substitution, district court, real party in interest, deceased, legal existence, cured, lack standing, nullity, jurisdictional defect, redress, estate's representative, personal representative, summary judgment, federal court, real-party-in-interest, purport, courts, outset

Civil Procedure, Capacity of Parties, Representative Capacity, Executors, Appeals, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preliminary Considerations, Justiciability, Standing, Parties, Real Party in Interest, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Standing, Particular Parties, Substitution, Jurisdiction, The Judiciary, Case or Controversy, Responses, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Jurisdiction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Summary Judgment Review, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Capacity of Parties, Governments, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate, Substitution, Death of Party, Rule Application & Interpretation