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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.