Case Caption: Samuel Ottley v. Estate of Viola Elfreda Bell, et al.Case Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2013-0097Date: 10/29/2014Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

In an ex-husband's action for partition of property after the death of his ex-wife, the Superior Court's dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction due to the failure to present this claim to the administrator of the ex-wife's estate pursuant to 15 V.I.C. § 606(b) is reversed. That Code provision is a mandatory and inflexible claims-processing rule that cannot be waived. However it does not govern the Superior Court's jurisdiction to adjudicate an action brought in derogation of the section. In the context of the entire probate scheme in the Virgin Islands, it appears that the Legislature intended § 606 to regulate the process of obtaining review by providing strict guidance for probate proceedings and it did not intend “to limit the court's adjudicatory authority. The plaintiff's request for partition was never presented to the administrator and thus, did not ripen before the Superior Court dismissed the civil suit. An action for partition is not an attempt to recover debt or property from an estate, and is not a “claim” within the meaning of § 606, and thus it need not be presented first to an estate's personal representative before commencing an action for partition in Superior Court. The Superior Court erred in granting the motion to dismiss in this case. The judgment is reversed and the case is remanded reinstatement so that the court can adjudicate plaintiff's action for partition and the ancillary debt of $60,000.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion