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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

New Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion: Wrongful Death Claim of Surviving Spouse Trumps Claim Made by Deceased's Children in This Intance

The Supreme Court of Tennessee just issued its opinion in Nelson v. Myres, No. M2015-01857-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Mar. 5, 2017).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads as follows:
The primary issue in this appeal is whether a surviving spouse maintains priority to file a wrongful death action when the decedent’s child has also filed a wrongful death action in which the child alleges that the surviving spouse negligently caused the decedent’s death. The trial court dismissed the daughter’s wrongful death complaint, but the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, ruling that under the circumstances presented in this case, the surviving spouse was disqualified from filing the wrongful death action. Because the wrongful death statutes do not include an exception to the spousal priority rule and because the surviving spouse did not waive his right to file the wrongful death action, we hold that the trial court properly dismissed the daughter’s wrongful death action. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the cause remanded to the trial court. 
Here is a link to the slip opinion:

NOTE: This is a follow-up post to my January 19, 2017 blog post about this same case after the Court of Appeals issued its decision.  Here is a link to that post:

Also, this opinion, as are all opinions from the Tennessee Supreme Court, is a must-read opinion and a reminder that wrongful death claims are creatures of statute and must be construed under the canons of statutory construction.  In this instance, there is no statutory exception to spousal priority to file and maintain such an action.

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