Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling limits award arising out of wrongful
This week, Georgia’s Supreme Court issued a ruling which limited
the amount of damages awarded to the family of a victim in a wrongful
death suit. The case arose after Sparkle Reid was killed in a murder for
hire plot in 2000. She was killed in the presence of her five month old
daughter while her husband, Rajeeve Rai, was at work. The couple had married
a month prior to the killing. After Sparkle’s death, her father,
Bennet Reid, took custody the baby and eventually adopted her. Rajeeve
abandoned the baby and did not challenge the adoption.
The victim in the wrongful death action was killed in a murder for hire plot.
Sparkle’s murder remained unsolved until 2004 when someone identified
her killers and informed law enforcement that they were hired by Rajeeve’s
father, Chiman Rai. Chiman was subsequently convicted of murder.
Bennet sued Chiman for wrongful death on behalf of Sparkle’s daughter
and for Sparkle’s pain and suffering. The trial court awarded Bennet’s
grandchild $2.5 million for wrongful death and $100,000 to Sparkle’s
estate for her pain and suffering.
The Supreme Court’s ruling determined that the murder for hire plot
did not constitute fraud and therefore the pain and suffering award was
Chiman appealed the ruling to the Georgia Court of Appeals. At issue was
whether the murder for hire plot involved fraud. If not, the pain and
suffering award would be time barred. The Court of Appeals upheld the
trial court’s decision.
However, last week, Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled that Sparkle’s
estate cannot collect the $100,000 award for pain and suffering because
the murder for hire plot did not involve fraud. As a result, a two year
statute of limitations applied to the claim which had already elapsed.
State laws specify who can bring a wrongful death action on behalf of a decedent.
Each state has specific statutes that articulate what parties can file a
wrongful death action on a decedent’s behalf. Under Georgia law, a surviving spouse of
the deceased individual can bring a wrongful death action on their behalf.
If no surviving spouse exists, then the decedent’s surviving children
may file a wrongful death action. In the event that the decedent has neither
a surviving spouse nor surviving children, their surviving parents may
pursue a wrongful death action. If the decedent does not have a surviving
spouse, children, or parents, then the administrator of the decedent’s
estate may file wrongful death action.
If your loved one has been killed as a result of another party’s
negligence, you should consult with an attorney immediately. An attorney
can help you determine whether you are entitled to file a wrongful death
claim on their behalf.