Estate of Semprevivo v. Lahham

In Estate of Semprevivo v. Lahham, a medical negligence suit, the New Jersey Appellate Division addressed two issues: (1) whether the good cause or exceptional circumstances standard applied for reinstatement of the complaint in a multi-defendant case, where no defendants had appeared in the case and participated in discovery; and (2) whether Rule 1:13-7 empowered the trial court to dismiss a complaint with prejudice in response to a motion filed by the nondelinquent party. The Appellate Division held that the trial court’s misapplication of the exceptional circumstances standard under Rule 1:13-7 prevented adjudication of the plaintiffs’ claims on the merits. Thus, the trial court mistakenly exercised its discretion by denying the plaintiffs’ motion to reinstate their complaint. The Appellate Division also held that Rule 1:13-7 neither empowers a trial court to dismiss a cause of action with prejudice nor authorizes a party in a case to affirmatively seek such a drastic sanction as a form of relief.

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