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Nebraska Upholds Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Complaint And Holds that Pro Se Complaint Was A Nullity

This case, while not discussing legal malpractice, is worth considering. The plaintiff, an administrator of an estate, filed a pro se wrongful death lawsuit against medical providers. It was undisputed that the pro se complaint was filed within the applicable statute of limitations period. After the statute of limitations ran, plaintiff retained a lawyer who filed an amended complaint. The Nebraska courts, in harsh rulings, dismissed the amended complaint. The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the dismissal.

Why was the case dismissed if it was timely filed? The courts found that the pro se complaint was a nullity because it was not filed by an attorney. The court acknowledged the result was a harsh one, but essentially said it was too bad.

In my opinion, this ruling is unduly formalistic and old-fashioned. It is also poorly reasoned given the harm to plaintiff and the given the fact that the defendants were put on notice during the limitations period. In other words, a technical violation defeated a potentially valid lawsuit.

Source: Kelly v. St. Francis Medical Center, 889 NW 2d 613 – Neb: Supreme Court 2017 – Google Scholar