October 21, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: Father Lacked Standing to Bring Wrongful Death Action Because Daughter Married at Time of Death

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hansen v. Barron’s Oilfield Service, Inc. on Thursday, September 6, 2018.

Torts—Wrongful Death—Standing to Sue—Adult Child.

Wife died in an automobile collision with Hierro, an employee of Barron’s Oilfield Services, Inc. (Barron’s). At the time of her death, Wife was married to Husband and had no children. A law firm filed a wrongful death action on Husband’s behalf, naming Barron’s and Hierro as defendants. However, apparently unbeknownst to the attorneys, Husband had died of natural causes before the complaint was filed. Upon learning of Husband’s death, the law firm filed an amended complaint substituting Hansen, Wife’s father (Parent), as the plaintiff. Barron’s moved to dismiss under C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5) arguing that Parent lacked standing under the Colorado Wrongful Death Act (WDA). The trial court granted the motion.

On appeal, Parent argued that the district court erred in dismissing his wrongful death action because it interpreted the WDA too strictly. He further argued that fairness and public policy dictate that he should be allowed to file a wrongful death action for the death of Wife under the circumstances here. Parents of an adult deceased have the right to bring a wrongful death action only if the decedent is unmarried and without descendants. Under C.R.S. § 13-21-201(1)(c)(I), the relevant time for determining if an adult deceased is “unmarried” is the decedent’s date of death. Here, it was undisputed that when Wife died, she was married to Husband, and Husband survived her.

The court of appeals also granted Barron’s request for attorney fees.

The judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded with directions for a determination of the appropriate amount of attorney fees incurred on appeal.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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