Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit a plaintiff who is not a real party in interest to substitute the real party in interest in his stead, even though the original plaintiff presumably has no standing.
Jane H. Covert had smoked cigarettes for almost forty years when she discovered that she had lung cancer in March of 1986. While Covert believed that she might have a cause of action against various cigarette manufacturers, she did not wish to become a party to the lawsuit. Therefore, she executed an act which purported to donate any cause of action she might have to her three children and to Stop Teenage Addiction to Tobacco (STAT), a nonprofit organization. This donation occurred prior to the time the lawsuit was filed. Thereafter, the donees filed suit against Liggett Group, Inc., Philip Morris, Inc., Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard, Inc., and the Tobacco Institute, Inc. seeking to recover damages for the injuries Jane H. Covert sustained. Defendants then moved for summary judgment on the ground that since Covert’s donation was absolutely null and void, the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. Plaintiffs subsequently redonated their claims back to Covert and filed a motion to amend their complaint in order to substitute Covert as the sole plaintiff in the suit. While both motions were pending, Covert died. Covert’s heirs have since filed a separate wrongful death action.
The Court held that under Louisiana law, a victim’s personal injury was strictly persona. Because it was strictly personal, it may not be donated or assigned. Thus, Covert’s attempted donation of her personal right was absolutely null. Anent the second issue, the Court noted that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permitted a plaintiff who was not a real party in interest to substitute he real party in interest in his stead, even though the original plaintiff presumably has no standing. Therefore, exercising its discretion and in the interest of justice, the Court held that Rule 17(a) allowed plaintiffs’ amendment to substitute Covert as the plaintiff herein. Under Rule 17(a), the amendment to substitute Covert as plaintiff related back to the date of the original complaint. Therefore, Covert was considered to have been the plaintiff in the instant action when she died on December 11, 1987.