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Paternity in Wrongful Death Case

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CaseDerrick Hussey, et al. v. Michael Woods, et al.

Issue:  How should paternity be decided to determine proper plaintiff in wrongful death case?

Facts:  Mother gave birth to Child out of wedlock. Putative Father executed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. Putative father died, and his mother filed and settled a wrongful death claim. Child’s Mother then filed a Rule 60.02 motion to set aside the settlement and to substitute Child as the proper plaintiff. The trial court transferred the question of paternity to Probate Court and denied the motion to set aside.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court reversed and remanded, holding that the trial court should have followed the procedures in Tenn. Code Ann. § 24-7-113(e) by holding a hearing to determine whether the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity was challengeable on the basis of fraud, duress, or mistake. Until making such determination, the underlying Rule 60.02 motion was not ripe for adjudication.

Review Granted:  May 9, 2016.

Prediction:  The Supreme Court’s order granting review directed briefing on whether Putative Father’s mother had standing to challenge the Paternity Acknowledgment, and whether the trial court properly denied the Rule 60.02 motion. Ben thinks the Supreme Court is likely to affirm the intermediate court’s opinion.