Ballesteros v. Roney – Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and Vehicle Accidents

Military service members on active duty are entitled to special consideration in matters of civil law when it comes to certain time limits and statutory requirements.

When a member of the military is injured in a civilian auto accident, and later called to active duty before completion of the civil case, he or she can seek relief from the court for certain deadlines that would otherwise prohibit a case form moving forward. Here in Montgomery, we have the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force base, and a fair amount of military members living in and around our communities.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, codified in 50 U.S.C. App. 501-597b, protects servicemembers from default judgments when the servicemember is materially affected by reason of service in making a defense to the action. Additionally, a servicemember is entitled to a stay of proceeding when a commanding officer can attest the current military duty will prevent appearance and that military leave will not be authorized for the purpose of allowing an appearance.

Of course, these allowances are not without limitation.

Our Montgomery car accident lawyers know because of the extensive requirements that must be met in order to secure relief for a servicemember in these actions, it’s imperative that plaintiffs in this position hire an attorney with injury law experience. That goes too for those who are suing an active-duty servicemember for civil damages related to a crash.

This very issue was before the Arkansas Supreme Court recently in the case of Ballesteros v. Roney.

In this case, a civilian filed a lawsuit against a member of the U.S. military following a motor vehicle accident in which it was alleged the soldier was negligent in causing the crash. The soldier responded by requesting an “Application for Stay of Proceedings,” indicating he was serving active duty at a military base in North Carolina. He indicated that because of his active-duty status, his ability to prepare for depositions, at court hearings and otherwise build a proper defense was materially affected for a time period of more than three months. The request was signed by his commanding officer.

The request was granted by the trial court, which ruled the matter would be closed until defendant’s active duty military service is completed and either party files a motion to reopen. That meant plaintiff could not proceed with discovery or any other aspect of the case until the soldier’s active-duty service was completed.

Plaintiff appealed that order, contending the soldier did not meet the necessary requirements for a stay under SCRA. The appeal was certified to the state supreme court, which sided with the soldier in finding an order for stay is not a final order from which an appeal can be accepted. Without a final order, any appeal is considered premature.

Because such orders can have a negative impact on the plaintiff (i.e., a significant delay in recovery of damages), it’s important that such cases be handled by injury lawyers with prior experience in these types of claims.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

Additional Resources:
Ballesteros v. Roney, Oct. 9, 2014, Arkansas Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Rose v. Highway Equipment Co. – Overcoming Pure Contributory Negligence Standard in Alabama, Sept. 25, 2014, Montgomery Injury Lawyer Blog

Contact Information