Trials & Litigation

No Plaintiff? No Problem--Lawyer Files Suit Without Estate Administrators' OK, May Seek New Ones

With the statute of limitations nearly expired, a Virginia lawyer who couldn’t reach the estate administrators went ahead and filed a wrongful death suit over the slaying of an unarmed motorist by a Fairfax County police officer who has since been fired.

However, this did not please Gail Masters, the ex-wife and best friend of the deceased, David Masters. She said attorney Jon E. Shields of Manassas didn’t contact either her or her daughter and co-administrator, Courtney Hubbard, before listing them as plaintiffs—with a wrong last name for Hubbard, reports the Washington Post’s State of NoVa blog.

And, Gail Masters tells the newspaper, she’s not interested in pursuing the lawsuit. It appears that she and her daughter wouldn’t be eligible to collect damages anyway, under state law, the article notes.

But they have a duty to other relatives, as estate administrators, to file the suit, Shields contends. He suggested that he could seek substitute administrators on the estate’s behalf to pursue the Prince William County Circuit Court action if they refuse to do so. (The suit was filed in Prince William because the defendant ex-officer resides there.)

It names as defendants the former officer, Fairfax County and its police department. The column predicts the governmental entities will prevail by asserting sovereign immunity. To hold them liable, the litigation would have to prove them grossly negligent, it says.

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