Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Couple's collision suit against Canadian tractor-trailer driver reinstated after they receive notice he was served

By Dee Thompson | Jan 18, 2018

BENTON – An Illinois couple who filed suit against a Canadian citizen because of an automobile accident that was dismissed in December 2017 has now had their case reinstated.

On Dec. 22, defendant Navdeep Singh was dismissed from the case filed by James and Angela Archibald because he had not been served, or at least the court didn’t realize he had been served.

However, on Jan. 5, the plaintiffs filed a motion to set aside the court’s dismissal of the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois because they had been notified by the Ministry of the Attorney General of the Ontario Court of Justice on Jan. 2 that Singh had actually already been served with the lawsuit. He was served in Canada on Dec. 5, more than two weeks prior to the court entering its initial notice to plaintiffs. 

Rule 60(b) leaves it to the court’s discretion as to whether or not reinstatement of the case can occur when it has been dismissed for lack of service. 

The court concluded its Jan. 9 memorandum and order by saying: “In considering the totality of the circumstances, the court finds that plaintiffs have made a sufficient showing of mistake and/or excusable neglect to warrant relief. Accordingly, the court grants plaintiffs’ motion (Doc. 23) and vacates the order entered on Dec. 22, 2017. The clerk’s office is directed to reinstate Navdeep Singh as a defendant in this action.”

The Archibalds sued Singh and Orbit Express Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on Aug. 9, 2017. The Archibalds claimed they suffered more than $75,000 worth of damages, and since the defendant was a resident of Canada, thus the case was appropriate for district court.

The lawsuit arises from an auto accident that happened on May 25, 2017. 

“Plaintiffs claim the defendants negligently and carelessly caused a collision to occur between plaintiff’s vehicle and defendant’s trailer,” according to the complaint. 

Specifically, Singh was driving a tractor-trailer owned by his employer Orbit Express Inc., a Canadian company. He allegedly parked the vehicle so that it was blocking both lanes of state Route 16 near Litchfield, and the Archibald vehicle, driven by James Archibald, hit it.

As a result, plaintiff James Archibald alleged he suffered painful and permanent injuries, including brain damage. 

“He has suffered mental anguish, disability and disfigurement, along with a loss of normal life, past, present and future, all to his damage in a substantial amount,” according to the complaint.

The complaint states claims for negligence and loss of consortium.

Shortly after suit was filed, according to a Jan. 9 memorandum and order issued by the district court, “On Dec. 14, 2017, the court notified plaintiffs that, should they fail to serve Mr. Singh or otherwise respond to the court’s notice by Dec. 21, 2017, the court would dismiss Mr. Singh for want of prosecution.” 

When cases are dismissed for lack of service in federal court the plaintiffs normally are not allowed to re-file. However, it's at the discretion of the court. In this case, the court allowed plaintiffs to re-file because of the delay between the time the defendant was served (Dec. 5) and when they were actually notified of that, almost a month later. After the plaintiffs filed a motion to set aside the dismissal, the case was reinstated.

Thomas Q. Keefe Jr. of Keefe, Keefe & Unsell PC represents the Archibalds.

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois