Wrongful Death Claims When Child Support is Owed
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.