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Wrongful Death Claims When Child Support is Owed

September 28, 2016

Wrongful Death Claims When Child Support is Owed

CaseKenneth M. Spires et al v. Haley Reece Simpson et al.

Issue:  Can a surviving spouse who owes child support commence and maintain a wrongful death action?

Facts:  Husband and Wife had a Child together. Wife was killed in a car accident. Husband sued on behalf of Wife and Child. Husband later lost custody of Child to a family member. The trial court held that Husband was statutorily disqualified from commencing and maintaining the action or collecting any portion of a settlement because he owed outstanding child support arrearages on behalf of children born to four women other than Wife. TCA 20-5-107(b).

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court held that although 20-5-107(b) operates to prohibit Husband’s recovery of his one-half of the settlement until his child support obligations are paid, it does not operate to disqualify him from commencing and maintaining this wrongful death action.

Review Granted:  September 22, 2016.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the supreme court is likely to affirm for the reasons stated by the intermediate court.