The Utah Supreme Court has just given the green light to a plaintiff/defendant suing herself for damages following the death of her husband, who died of injuries suffered in a single-vehicle car accident. The plaintiff, 55, was the one driving at the time of the wreck.
In Bagley v. Bagley, Barbara Bagley is the allegedly negligent driver who is facing a wrongful death lawsuit, filed by herself as the widow and representative of her late husband’s estate.
Although the case is unusual, what it really involves is collecting insurance money to which the decedent would have been entitled. As a widow who suffered the untimely loss of her husband, she is grappling with medical expenses, funeral expenses, and creditors. A number of legal analysts have weighed in, and the consensus is that more than likely, the plaintiff isn’t going to profit from the outcome. Instead, this is about recovering certain losses. At most, according to her own injury attorney, quoted by The Telegraph, she is hoping to maybe cover the cost of the headstone.
According to court records, the plaintiff was the common-law wife of the decedent. In December 2011, just two days after Christmas, the pair were traveling in a Range Rover when Bagley lost control of the vehicle, and it rolled. The decedent suffered severe injuries from which he never recovered. He died 10 days after the crash.
Bagley maintained an auto insurance policy with State Farm. In an effort to compel State Farm to indemnify her in her role as both the sole heir and the personal representative of her husband’s estate, she filed the car accident lawsuit against herself, alleging wrongful death and loss of consortium. In her claim, she alleged the defendant (herself) acted negligently and in turn caused pain and suffering to her husband, as well as wrongful death. She is seeking compensation for that as well as damages for the estate, such as medical bills and funeral expenses.
In response to the claim, the defendant (the same person as the plaintiff, but represented by different attorneys) filed a motion to dismiss. She argued the plain language of the state statute prohibits a person from suing himself or herself. There were citations of contributory negligence principles. Specifically, Utah follows a modified comparative fault model with a 50 percent bar. That means that if a plaintiff is more than 50 percent at fault, he or she cannot recover damages for injuries. (South Carolina follows a similar model, although with a 51 percent bar, while North Carolina follows a model of pure contributory negligence, meaning any degree of contributory negligence by a plaintiff will bar him or her from collecting any damages.)
Based on this, the district court dismissed the claim.
However, the state appellate court reversed, and the state supreme court affirmed that decision. The state high court ruled it was not an error to conclude that wrongful death and survival action laws allow a person acting in the legal capacity of an heir or a personal representative to sue himself or herself in an individual capacity for being negligent in causing a decedent’s injury or death.
Contact the Carolina car accident lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Bagley v. Bagley, Oct. 27, 2016, Utah Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Greenville Car Accident Kills Teen, Spurs Lawsuit Against SCDOT, Oct. 28, 2016, Asheville Injury Lawyer Blog