Pennsylvania Superior Court Confirms a Fictional “Lord of the Rings” Character Can’t File a Lawsuit

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Who is allowed to file a lawsuit in Pennsylvania. This is a straightforward, but often overlooked question. An amusing opinion by the Pennsylvania Superior Court offers some insight. Short answer – definitely not fictional characters from Lord of the Rings.

In Ex. Rel Six et. al v. Gustafson, et al, two individual plaintiffs filed suit to regain possession of six storage containers that had, in prior landlord tenant litigation, been awarded to the Gustafsons. The named, individual plaintiffs were “Thomas E. Bombadil” and “Timothy D. Parr.” But these plaintiffs had an existential problem having nothing to do with property law or rules or procedure. They didn’t exist.

The trial court dismissed the matter after it was discovered that “Thomas E. Bombadil” was not a living, breathing person, but a fictional character from the “Lord of the Rings.” Likewise, as pointed out by the trial court, “Timothy D. Parr” did not exist and, in various pleadings, “regularly denied his own existence.”

The fictional plaintiffs appealed to the Superior Court. But, as you can imagine, the Superior Court was unmoved. In affirming the trial court’s dismissal the Superior Court offered the following insightful and humorous analysis:

In a typical case, we would dispose of an appeal by addressing the merits of cognizable claims and denying relief when none is due. We cannot even get to that point here, however, because we can only consider claims asserted by a real person or entity, and “Appellants” do not dispute the trial court’s findings that they do not exist.

There you have it. Who can file a lawsuit in Pennsylvania? Real people with real injuries. And definitely not Tolkien characters!

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