HARRISBURG – The Superior Court of Pennsylvania on Oct. 31 rejected an appeal by a woman to overturn a 2016 court judgment that denied changing a defendant's name in a wrongful death claim after her husband died in a detoxification center.
The court described the decades-long case as having a “tortured procedural history” in its ruling. The Superior Court affirmed the Monroe County Common Pleas Court's September 2016 denial of the woman’s appeal on the grounds that she had failed to file post-trial motions in a timely manner and so had waived her ability to amend the name of the defendant.
According to the ruling, on June 23, 1997, Mark Willet was admitted to the Greenway Center, a substance abuse detoxification center in Henryville. The following morning Willet was found dead.
His wife and administrator Annette Maione filed a wrongful death action in the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, naming as a defendant in the action the Greenway Center Inc. Winco, a Pennsylvania corporation, had been operating the substance abuse center beginning in 1996.
According to a January 2007 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruling, Willet’s death caused the Pennsylvania Department of Health to revoke Winco’s operating license and the treatment center temporarily ceased operations in November 1997. In March 1998, the center reopened under Healthcare Management Associates Inc., who had been authorized by the bankruptcy court to operate the facility as an agent for Winco.
By not naming Winco in the suit and only Greenway; Maione had named an incorrect defendant.
In 2000 in an attempt to correct the error, Maione filed a second wrongful death suit in the Court of Common Pleas naming Winco as a defendant. The attempt was dismissed by the court because as Willet had died in 1997, a two-year statute of limitations had run out, according to the Third Circuit.
In 2002 Maione filed to change the name of the defendant to “Winco Acquisition Inc., doing business as Greenway Center,” or “Greenway Center Inc. as a successor in interest to Winco Acquisition Inc.”
On Sept. 22, 2016, after a non-jury trial, a trial court entered final judgment in favor of Maione and against Greenway Center Inc. as a successor in interest to Winco Acquisition Inc. She appealed, and the Superior Court ordered her in December 2016 to show why her appeal should not be dismissed because of her failure to file within 10 days.